Cups: the Modern Pattycake

A clapping-type game called "cups" is spreading rapidly among young schoolgirls. The modern revival, with its accompanying song, is considered to have started with Lulu and the Lampshades' video You're Gonna Miss Me. Their routine was included in the movie Pitch Perfect, which was released on video in December. But why are cups and other clapping games so appealing?

The games are encoded with sociocultural significance, said Elizabeth Tucker, a folklorist and English professor at Binghamton University in New York.

They have existed since at least the late 19th century and their functions include teaching dexterity and serving as tools for forming friendships. And new research is showing that these primitive clapping and chanting games have endured around the world, despite competition from hand-held technology.

Kyra Gaunt, a social science professor at Baruch College in New York, researches hand games. There are so many distractions these days, Gaunt said, that hand games are harder for children to master. And as playtime has become more structured — soccer leagues and play dates — students are discovering the games in different ways, often through music classes, movies and, of course, on the Web.

The spread is easy to explain: you see it, and you say, "That's neat! I wanna learn to do that." Luisa Gerstein of Lulu and the Lampshades said she doesn't know who invented cups, as she had learned it years earlier in school. Some things never change. Link -via TYWKIWDBI

(Image credit: Matt McClain/Washington Post)

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Congratulations on giving Lulu and the Lampshades proper credit. But, then again, Miss C. knows the Internet like the back of her hand.
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I learned "cups" as a kid at summer camp. It wasn't something I did at my school or any of my friends from our town did. We bought it back with us and taught everyone at school, much to the chagrin of the school staff on lunch duty.
I had mostly forgotten about it until I was out of high school and a friend of mine was talking about this video he saw on the web with a girl doing cup stacking. Which provided another opportunity to teach someone else the "cups" game.
The way these kinds of kids games and songs proliferate has always fascinated me. It's like a whole little secret anthropological world open only to children. I'm not sure whether I'm sad or not that the Internet is now involved. It's laudable that these things are still being perpetuated but it's a little heartbreaking that kids are not always learning them from peers on playgrounds or around the neighborhood.
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