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The Lore And Language Of Schoolchildren (NYRB Classics) Paperback – 1 Apr 2001
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The Opies, professors of literature and essentially folklorists, did something path-breaking: they observed children and took their play seriously The Lore and Language of Schoolchildrenreminds us that children are their own beings who create and navigate complicated social worlds, and the way they do so is worthy of respect and understanding. Hilary Levey Friedman, Brain, ChildMagazine"
"The Opies, professors of literature and essentially folklorists, did something path-breaking: they observed children and took their play seriously...The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren reminds us that children are their own beings who create and navigate complicated social worlds, and the way they do so is worthy of respect and understanding." --Hilary Levey Friedman, Brain, Child Magazine
About the Author
Iona (born 1923) and Peter Opie (1918-1982) began their research together in 1944. Fifteen years later, they published The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren and took their places as, to quote The Guardian, "the supreme archivists of the folklore movement." Since that time, they have jointly published The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes, The Classic Fairy Tales, and Children's Game in Street and Playground. Since Peter Opie's death in 1982, Iona Opie has carried on with their work under his name as well as her own.
Marina Warner is a writer of fiction, criticism, and history. Her award-winning studies of mythology and fairy tales include Alone of All Her Sex: The Myth and the Cult of the Virgin Mary, From the Beast to the Blonde, and No Go the Bogeyman. In 2006 she published Phantasmagoria: Spirit Visions, Metaphors, and Media, a study of ghosts, phantasms, and technology. Her most recent work of fiction is the novel The Leto Bundle. A Fellow of the British Academy, she is also Professor of Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies at the University of Essex.
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Top Customer Reviews
Fossilised in the closed world of children, medieval superstition, eighteenth century political satire and music hall ribaldry blend seemlessly into a new cadre of rhyme and nonsense featuring the stars of film and radio, the skits of wartime humour and the politics of the day, all garbled through the half-comprehending medium of the child's eye view. It is a fascinating, sprawling body of material.
The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren, along with other work by the Opies, set the standard for a new type of inward-looking anthroplogy. It is no surprise, therefore, that it is a turgid read at times. The authors are concerned that their apparently trivial subject should be accepted with the seriousness which it undoubtedly merited. Any sparkle in the book comes from the loopy daftness of the rhymes and the pure gold of the unedited child voice. I do not know that the book could have been produced differently at the time, but it isn't something you could sit down and read from cover to cover for pleasure unless you were unusually sober in your tastes. For most readers, better to dip in and out.
Much of the language described in this book has been lost since it was published, truce terms, counting out rhymes, most of the customs of mischief night too - it remains in parts throughout the UK but fragmentary. While the passing of these things is perhaps inevitable, some of the knowledge recorded had survived hundreds or thousands of years before global homogenisation, for which our language and traditions are impoverished.
There are bits of this book which won't be mourned - the long section on catholic and protestant rivalry, anti-semitic calls and so on - note that the authors were academics and have simply recorded whatever they were able to discover, there is no prejudice intended.
I'd advise anyone with an interest in language, play, social history, etc. to read this book and disseminate the customs therein (well, perhaps don't send your children out to put the neighbour's gate in a pond).
For a semi-academic work it's entirely readable, and recitable.
The sausage is a cunning bird
With feathers long and wavy;
It swims about the frying pan
And makes its nest in gravy
Boy, 12, Newcastle upon Tyne (in Nonsense Rhymes in the Just for fun chapter)
Underneath the spreading chestnut tree
Mr. Chamberlain said to me,
If you want to get your gas-mask free,
Join the blinking A.R.P.
(in the Topical Rhymes chapter relating to events of 1938, but "fourteen years later this verse was re-collected from girls in Aberdeen [...] [who] had not been born when the Munich pact was signed".
'When you play "Ring the bell,Susie" you tie a piece of string to one woman's bell and the other end to another woman's door handle and then you ring the woman's bell that has the piece of string on the handle and then you hide. When she opens the door it rings the womans bell and when she opens her door she shuts the other woman's door then she opens her door it rings the womans bell then she opens her door it shuts the other womans door and it goes on like that for a long time.' (description by a 12-year old in the Pranks chaper)
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Was brought up on this book so it is lovely to have in my house for my children and grandchildren to pore over!Published 20 months ago by D White
A classic. I had forgotten all about this book until I was sent an ad for itPublished on 13 Dec. 2014 by G. A. Robinson
This is now dated, but a wonderful book about children' stamens and rituals. I'd forgotten about 'fainites' until I read it - and it brought back many memories of childhood games,... Read morePublished on 20 Jun. 2014 by Cat
The history and origins of the rhymes/sayings are really interesting and so are the regional differences. Read morePublished on 25 Nov. 2013 by Nozzy
This is a classic book in the field of children's folklore. My paperback copy, purchased in 1969, is falling to pieces from regular use. Read morePublished on 25 Oct. 2013 by Peter Barnes