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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 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
First published in 1959, The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren is a pathbreaking work of scholarship that is also a splendid and enduring work of literature. Going outside the nursery, with its assortment of parent approved entertainments, to observe and investigate the day-to-day creative intelligence and activities of children, the Opies bring to life the rites and rhymes, jokes and jeers, laws, games, and secret spells of what has been called 'the greatest of savage tribes, and the only one which shows no signs of dying out.'See all Product description
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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.
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