Handy-dandy

★ Handy-dandy Story:

This game is now played as follows:–a child hides something in one hand, and then places both fists endways on each other, crying,–

Handy-dandy riddledy ro, Which will you have, high or low?

Or, sometimes, the following distich,–

Handy-dandy, Jack-a-dandy, Which good hand will you have?

The party addressed either touches one hand, or guesses in which one the article (whatever it may be) is placed. If he guesses rightly, he wins its contents; if wrongly, he loses an equivalent.

Some versions read handy-pandy in the first of these, with another variation, that would not now be tolerated. This is one of the oldest English games in existence, and appears to be alluded to in Piers Ploughman, ed. Wright, p. 69:

Thanne wowede Wrong Wisdom ful yerne, To maken pees with his pens, Handy-dandy played.

Florio, in his World of Worlds, ed. 1611, p. 57, translates bazziciure, “to shake between two hands, to play handie-dandie.” Miege, in his Great French Dictionary, 1688, says, “Handy-dandy, a kind of play with the hands, sorte de jeu de main;” and Douce, ii. 167, quotes an early MS., which thus curiously mentions the game: “They hould safe your children’s patrymony, and play with your majestie, as men play with little children at handye-dandye, which hand will you have, when they are disposed to keep anythinge from them.” Some of the commentators on Shakespeare have mistaken the character of the game, from having adopted Coles’s erroneous interpretation of micare digitis.

Sometimes the game is played by a sort of sleight of hand, changing the article rapidly from one hand into the other, so that the looker-on is often deceived, and induced to name the hand into which it is apparently thrown. This is what Shakespeare alludes to by changing places.

Pope, in his Memoirs of Martinus Scriblerus, says that the game of handy-dandy is mentioned by Plato; but if, as I suppose, he refers to a well-known passage in the Lysis, the allusion appears somewhat too indistinct to warrant such an assertion,–. A passage, however, in Julius Pollux, ix. 101, referring to this, is rather more distinct, and may allude to one form of the game.–,

thus partially translates, “nempe ludentes sumptis in manu talis, fabis, nucibus, amygdalis, interdum etiam nummis, interrogantes alterum divinare jubebant.” Here we have the exact game of handy-dandy, which is, after all, the simple form of the odd and even of children.

Browne has a curious allusion to this game in Britannia’s Pastorals, i. 5,–

Who so hath sene yong lads, to sport themselves, Run in a low ebbe to the sandy shelves, Where seriously they worke in digging wels, Or building childish sorts of cockle-shels; Or liquid water each to other bandy, Or with the pibbles play at handy-dandy.

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