Ollie ollie outs in free free free

In this week’s newspaper column on late-surrendering Japanese soldiers (not yet posted to the site), Cecil asks, “What’s the matter, these guys never heard of ‘ollie ollie outs in free free free’?”

I’d guess that no they hadn’t, as I’d never heard it either, not in exactly that formulation. I’ve heard “ollie ollie oxen free” and in a story I have it’s “allee allee olsen gee, everybody tagged is free.” I checked the Dictionary of Phrase and Fable but don’t find a listing under either spelling. Anyone know the “real” phrase and the origin?

I remember “ollie, ollie enfree” without ever knowing what it meant - Cecil’s take makes more sense than my version.

Are you driving with your eyes open or are you using The Force? - A. Foley

I read somewhere that this was a corruption of a harbor announcement, “All the early yachts in free.” Can’t find a cite, though.

We used “ollie, ollie, oxen free.” However, I heard somewhere that what it originally was was “ollie, ollie, out are in free.” That still doesn’t answer the question of who Ollie is, though.

–It was recently discovered that research causes cancer in rats.

Seems to me I remember back in grade school - that’d be the fifties (the nineteen fifties, thank you) that the phrase was a corruption of “All ye, all ye, urchins free!”

IIRC the phrase is "All the, all the outs are in free.
Why the first two words are repeated is beyond me, although I might guess that instead of the first “all the”, the term might have been “oyez”, (listen up!), a word used only in the courts in English but still a common introduction in Latin countries.

I always knew it as “ollie ollie oxen free,” though I wouldn’t have known quite how to spell it. A search on the phrase using that spelling suggested the origin of the phrase ‘was something like “all in free” for “all who are out can come in free,”’ which had then been garbled in passing down through many generations of children.

Also from that page, which makes sense: Charles Wilson wrote: “When I was growing up in the American South we actually said, ‘All ye all ye outs in free’ when playing hide-and-seek (although we called it 'hide-and-go-seek)”.

Source: http://www.quinion.com/words/qa/qa-oll1.htm

Any similarities between your reality and mine are purely coincidental.

Nixon, I was just trying to think of how to spell “oyez” when you posted. I think the English (The Brits) have a special place in their hearts for corrupted French words.

No! No! Just a personal opinion and I can’t back it up!

Are you driving with your eyes open or are you using The Force? - A. Foley

I recall it being “Ollie Ollie in come free.” It may be a corruption of “All ye all ye out come in free.”

I vaguely recall reading something on this. Have to look for the reference.

I am SO glad this thread was posted! (because I was going to do it myself)
I was taught “Ollie Ollie Oxen Free!” by my father, who grew up in 1940s Chicago. I am really interested to find the origin.

Sucks to your assmar.

Well we always used Ollie Ollie Oxen Free. But then again that wasn’t that long ago so we had plenty of time to mistake it for what it really was. It’s probably All ye All ye something though only because I don’t know anyone named Ollie nor do I know why they’d get in for free. Where’s Cecil when you need him??

We figured “oxen free” or “out in free” meant the untagged people still hidding could come in for free (without being found and such) so the game could begin again…

Jois, since you mentioned it: Why do court bailiffs say “oyez, oyez” sometimes?

We always said, Ollie, Ollie Auction [as close as I can get phonetically], All in Free. Early 1950’s.

“Mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy.”


“Mairzee doats and dozee doats and liddle lamzee divy.”

“Ollie, ollie oxen free,” could’ve been any of the mentioned possibilities.

BTW: I sent in that question and JillGat sent me several emails to tell me it would be answered. On Feb 14, one of her emails said this:

When all else fails, ask Cecil.

When in doubt, surf:

“The dawn of a new era is felt and not measured.” Walter Lord

Beruang, I can verify part of the information from your link, which states that “Ollie Ollie oxen free” was common in California. Indeed, that’s what I used as a child in California (1960’s.) But their suggested origin, “all’s out come in free” doesn’t seem right to me. I will stick by “All ye, all ye, outs are in free” and the reason “all ye” is repeated is by influence of the french (and judicial) term “Oyez, Oyez.”

Growing up in northern VA, it was ‘ollie ollie in come free.’ Where were you, Irishman?

[looking carefully back and forth in a secretive manner] Arkansas. [/whispering]

Here’s the post to the Cecil column in which this phrase occurs: http://www.straightdope.com/columns/000310.html