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Posted: Thu Mar 29, 2007 2:16 pm
by Tony Farg
This word has been known to me since my childhood. It means the spot of reflected light from (say) a watch glass or a mirror as it dances around the room. In later years I came to realise that only our family knows the word, and I recognised that my father had made it up. Imagine my surprise when my daughter googled it and came up with a match in the writings of Robyn Coburn in the USA. Furthermore, she (Robyn) believes that only her family knows the word, and that her mother made it up. BUT HER DEFINITION OF IT IS PRECISELY THE SAME!
The odds against this must be infinity, and yet neither Robyn nor I know of any connection between our families.
Does anyone out there know the word, and if so, its origins?


Posted: Fri Mar 30, 2007 8:22 pm
by Ken Greenwald
Tony F., The following is my feeble attempt to answer the seemingly unanswerable. This is all very, very strange, but it seems there must be some connection. What follows probably isn’t worth much, but as they say, maybe it’s better than a kick in the teeth.

The only connection that I have been able to find involving ICKY, ACKY, and MORE (and thus ICKYACKYMORE in both the U.K. and the U.S. has to do with children’s games.

I can’t speak for the whole U.S. but in New York City, at least, in the 1940s and 50s, when deciding who was going to be IT in a game of hide-and-seek or tag (or in other choosing games), we would stand in a circle and put out both fists and the designated person in the middle would chant and hit our fists as each number was spoken:

One potato, two potato, three potato, four / Five potato, six potato, seven potato MORE.

And the fist that got hit on the word MORE was dropped and no longer usable. The process would be repeated and when both of your fists were hit you were out of the circle. And the last person left was IT.

According to an old and lovely book titled Children’s Games in Street and Playground [[in the U.K.]] (1969) by Iona and Peter Opie, I found that this same ‘potato’ choosing method is/was used in the U.K. and so we have the word MORE being used in a children’s choosing routine on both sides of the Atlantic.

I also found in the same book another choosing routine:

“Another way a player can condemn himself to the unwanted role [[e.g. being IT, etc.]] is by the process known as ‘Chinging up’ or ‘Odd Man Out.’ For this operation, much resorted to in greater London, the players stand in a circle facing inwards, with hands behind their back, and chant in unison certain words, which vary from district to district, . . . On the word out they whip their hands from behind their backs, holding them in front for all to see, either with their fists clenched, or with their fingers stretched out palms downward , or with their hands clenched but first two fingers spread out. Then they look around to see if one player is ‘odd,’ that is to say holding his hands in one of the three positions but different from everyone else, in which case that player becomes ‘ee’ [[“or the one who, as they express it, is ‘on,’ ‘on it,’ ‘he,’ or ‘it’”]]. Alternatively, the players pair off and play against each other, either bringing their hands out from behind their backs, or dabbing them in the air three times in front of them, and making the finger formation at the third dab, synchronizing their movements with three vocables such as ‘ICK, ACK, OCK.’”

In NYC we used the somewhat simplified version in which two players decided who was ‘odds’ and who was ‘evens.’ We said ‘once, twice, three (striking our hands in the air two times and putting out either two fingers or one on the final strike and saying) ‘shoot.’ ‘Evens’ corresponded to two players putting out the same number of fingers and ‘odds’ to putting out different numbers of fingers. The one who made the correct prediction won. Pairs of losers would continue to compete until there was one person left, the ‘IT.’

So, in a children's choosing method in Britain the words ICK followed by ACK were known to be used. And the word MORE was also used as the last word in another choosing method. It doesn’t sound entirely implausible to me that the sequence ICKY, ACKY, MORE (ICKYACKYMORE) could have been used in some other children’s choosing routine. And, in fact, I’d be extremely hard-pressed to come up with another explanation that would string these three words together!

Incidentally, in a Google search I did find mention of the game ICKY ACKY in three recent U.K. posting:
<2007 “Re: How old were u when u had your first fight? umm wen i was about 10 we were playing ICKY ACKY or watever in the playground, i was on and one of the lads who was safe (touchng the wall) pushed me in the back.”—‘ClioSport,’ 16, January> [[(spelling is not this forum’s strong suit; sounds like game of tag in which you are safe when touching the wall]]

<2003-2007? “We were playing ICKY ACKY [although I remember calling it acky acky when i was younger . . . probably a redditch thing.].”—from> [[MySpace founded in 2003; Redditch is a district in north-east Worcestershire, England.]]

<2003-2007? “ICKY ACKY one, two, three, i see liv running towards me . . .”—from>
Now the question is, is there any evidence of the sequence ICKY ACKY being used in children’s games in the U.S.? And there is! However, the particular example I found hailed from Washington D.C. and was attested to in 1967 (Dictionary of American Regional English). The words ICKY-ACKY were called out when children played a game in which they threw a ball over a building. The children on one side would call out ICKY-ACKY and the children on the other side would respond OVER and thus the name of the game ICKY-ACKY-OVER. This game was also variously known, dating back to the 1950s, in other U.S. cities as ALLEY-OVER, ALLEY-ALLEY OVER, OLLY-OLLY OVER, ILLY-ALLY-OVER, or ANTONY OVER.

So now we have ICKY ACKY as the leading words and MORE as the last word of some children’s games – both used on both sides of the Atlantic. But what the heck does this have to do with:
<“the spot of reflected light from (say) a watch glass or a mirror as it dances around the room.”>
Tony, you got me – I never claimed this was gonna be good! (<:)

But, as stated above, it is hard to imagine how else these three words would have come to be strung together. And as for their relationship to your above meaning, the only thing that I can think of is that the activity of the vocalizations ICKY ACKY (followed by MORE) and the accompanying excited activity and waving of children’s hands somehow seemed to correspond in the minds of the coiners of the expression (in the U.S. and the U.K.) to the dancing of the reflected spot of light around a room. Somewhat far-fetched, but the coincidence of your tale - upon reflection, so to speak - also seems somewhat far-fetched, so we find ourselves in the grasping-for-straws mode!

Note: I also found instances on the web where ICKY ACKY appeared to mean ICKY, distasteful, YUCKY, but this choice didn’t seem as 'likely' and didn't seem to accommodate the use of the final ‘more’ as well.

Ken G - March 30, 2007


Posted: Sat Mar 31, 2007 12:28 am
by gdwdwrkr
This reminds me: Why don't you ever hear "MENE", "MENE", "TEKEL", "PARSIN" in any children's rhymes or games? If any Bible-words have that eeny-meeny-miney-moe ring to them, it's "MENE", "MENE", "TEKEL", "PARSIN".
The handwriting on the wall is similar to the dancing of the reflection Tony asks about.


Posted: Mon Apr 02, 2007 10:05 am
by Tony Farg
Thanks, Ken. Your response was very interesting, even if the conclusion was stretching it a bit!
However, I may have misled you in my definition, inasmuch as the "dancing" bit is only a peripheral part... in other words one would say "look at the ickyackymore" even if the spot of reflected light were completely stationary. This sort of blows your tenuous conclusion away again, but it was a worthy try!


Posted: Mon Apr 02, 2007 3:03 pm
by Erik_Kowal

Please tell us more about your motivational speaking sideline.


Posted: Mon Apr 02, 2007 9:04 pm
by Ken Greenwald
Tony, Not to worry! It only blew the last step. My children’s game explanation is adaptable and works even better than before. The ‘MORE’ in ICKYACKYMORE marks the chosen spot at which the counter has stopped – a stationary point where a fist or person is deselected. The process continues with the next count and the next chosen/stationary spot, and the next . . . till all the dancin’ is done. (&lt)

Ken G – April 2, 2007


Posted: Mon Apr 02, 2007 10:04 pm
by gdwdwrkr
We used to call those reflections, especially the dancing ones, "Tinkerbells" after the early TV production character in Peter Pan.


Posted: Tue Apr 03, 2007 1:55 am
by Shelley
Words play the same weird games of synchronicity that numbers do. In my office we'll have periods during which "every" client is named Christopher or Christine. One week, I took a call from a man named "Nitswicky" and a couple of days later, another man called whose name was "Switnicky". I kid thee not. You'll hear a word that you've never heard before, and then suddenly it's all over your life: in the newspaper, on the radio, in the book you're reading, on two TV shows in the same day -- whatever. I've been conditioned to pay attention to these coincidences, but some are more meaningful than others.
I'm so impressed (again) with Ken.
Tinkerbell is what I associate with these light reflections, too. I like the idea of them having their own special name -- ickyackymore is good. Thing is, light has a kind of liquid quality (to me) and so I'd want a word that had the letter "L" in it. Ickyacky is kind of hard, but is softened somewhat by "more". Scintillation . . .


Posted: Tue Apr 03, 2007 3:48 am
by Erik_Kowal
In a recent radio discussion concerning the nature of probability, the guest professor on the programme explained that if he divided his class into two randomly-assigned groups, one of which was asked to record on a blackboard (US = chalkboard) the results of flipping a coin 100 times, while the other was asked to simulate the results of 100 coin tosses, he could always tell at a glance from the results on the boards which group had made theirs up. Evidently the fakers try too hard to equalize the heads and tails, whereas the genuine results generally contain several long runs (of typically up to 7 or 8 occurrences in a row) of all heads or all tails.

I would assume that a similar phenomenon is the cause of the kind of coincidence that Shelley mentions. We notice such coincidences (and are liable to assume they are significant) because it is in our nature to discern patterns even when what looks like a pattern is purely the outcome of random chance.

Often, all it then takes is for a charismatic leader to step forth and proclaim the miraculous nature of the said pattern of events to an uncritical mass of susceptible followers, and presto! a new superstition/sect/religion has been spawned.


Posted: Tue Apr 03, 2007 8:26 am
by Tony Farg
Mmmm, yes, maybe. However I still don't see how two unrelated families:
a) chose to invent a word to describe it
b)chose the same 5 syllable word and spelled it the same
c)are the only two families in the world (apparently)to have done so.
There must, I think, have been a single person out there who invented the word, perhaps using the derivation Ken has outlined, who was in contact with my dad and Robyn Coburn's mum at some point when an ickyackymore was around, who passed it on to them.


Posted: Tue Apr 03, 2007 10:13 am
by gdwdwrkr
I only ever had cheap watches with convex crystals.
Then I inherited a good watch with a crystal crystal
ground flat...and have been tempted in church to send
that perfect reflection in amusing directions. Temptation
is not sin, but I am weakening.....


Posted: Tue Apr 03, 2007 12:34 pm
by Wizard of Oz
Erik_Kowal wrote: Often, all it then takes is for a charismatic leader to step forth and proclaim the miraculous nature of the said pattern of events to an uncritical mass of susceptible followers, and presto! a new superstition/sect/religion has been spawned.
.. so does this mean that Tony Farg becomes the charismatic leader of the ICKYACKYMORONS ?? .. are Tony Snr and Robyn C the founding prophets ?? .. do we await the second coming of Tinkerbell in a burst of rainbow light rising in the East ?? .. should we look for hidden meanings in Pink Floyds Dark Side of the Moon album cover ?? .. and just where does fiat lux fit into all of this ?? ..

WoZ of IckyAckyAus 03/04/07


Posted: Tue Apr 03, 2007 7:02 pm
by Tony Farg


Posted: Wed Apr 25, 2007 7:17 am
by Tony Farg
Users of the forum may be interested to follow up my search for the origins of ickyackymore in the pages of the British newspaper 'The Guardian', which I believe is available online. I have sent a query in to its Tuesday column:'Notes and Queries'.If published, it may attract other responses.


Posted: Tue Sep 18, 2007 6:17 pm
by mongrowl
Talking to Babies
From a discussion about whether it inhibits language acquisition for parents to use more than one term for things:
Other family words are less loaded. My mother had a word "ickyackymore" - it means the small reflection of the sun off a prism such as a watch face. I use it with Jayn, coupled with the information that this is our special made up word, that other people will not know it.