ollie, ollie, etc

My undestanding is that it originates from the German

alles, alles, auch sind frei.

First, this is What’s the meaning of “Ollie, Ollie oxen go free”?.

Second, yes, this is one theory. As usual, proof appears to be wanting. The version I knew in the 50’s was “All-y, all-y, outs in free,” which makes pretty nearly perfect sense in English.

I have heard the German theory too, and it sounds more plausible than “It” telling her allies to let the oxen go free, or whatever. :wink:

To sidetrack a bit, in an old Peanuts strip Lucy goes around shouting “Olee olee Olsen free-o!” until Violet comes over and tells her it’s supposed to be “Ally ally out are in free!”
Looks like John and Violet grew up in the same area. :wink:

I can cite a story in the New York Times from 1909. The grandfather who was playing hide and seek with his grandkids was said to say, “All’s out’s in free.”

Just to give a point of how early the English variant appears.

From Michael Quinion’s World Wide Words:

I’m sending a query to Mr. Quinion about the German wording.

Here’s my email:

His reply:

When I was little, we said something like “O-lee O-lee Able Sings” and I had no idea at the time what it meant or even where I heard it from. Some other kid most likely. I was an adult before I heard the “oxen free” variation and just chalked it up to regional differences.

But a side issue I’m curious about (have been for a long time) is how children learn such things. I know my parents never told me that or any other game-related terminology. Other kids’ parents may have told them and perhaps I picked it up second hand from adults. But I do doubt that. My hypothesis is that kids “pick stuff up” from older kids and it gets passed along (like in that “telephone gossip” game) with rampant variation.

Aside from regional differences, I’m amazed that such things have an identifiable origin that can be relied on. Call me a skeptic on such things.

That’s basically “everyone, everyone also are free” translating word by word just to clarify.

Well, if you look at my post above showing a 1909 print cite for one English version of it, that shows what was out there at that point. And, someday, we’ll find something earlier. And, who knows, it may be the German version.

Trying to find the source of such things is what it’s all about to a linguist.

Living as I do in the North of England we used the word spuggy as a slang term for chewing/bubble gum.