The fifth of May, 2011: my uncle does not like peas, and making your own entertainment

A little bit of curious etymology I turned up while crossword-setting.

The word rigmarole derives (through what must have been some pretty casual pronunciation) from ‘ragman roll’. What is a ragman roll? Why, it’s a roll used in a game of ragman. Thanks, OED.

What’s ragman? Finally, the OED gets down to it:

A game of chance in which players draw out an item, hidden in a roll of writing, by pulling a string to which it is attached.

Apparently, in a variant whereby these ‘items’ were ‘verses descriptive of personal character’, this constituted a parlour game (‘In the game of Ragman, the person seeking his character drew a string, which indicated the stanza that was to be applied to him’).

This is the sort of thing people mean when they talk about making your own entertainment.

Now, who’s for a game of My Uncle Does Not Like Peas?


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