Almost everyone's played this game, or some variation of it: one person is selected as "It" and blindfolded, and then other players are encouraged to come as close as possible to the temporarily handicapped player without being caught. Unsurprisingly, this variation of tag has been around for a very long time - but it used to be a lot more exciting.

It was popular two thousand years ago among Greek boys, although in a somewhat more violent form. The boys called it Muinda, which means Brazen Fly. The "blindman" would be whipped with papyrus husks by his playmates until one of them was caught.

The violence continued through the Middle Ages, when the game was known as "Hoodsman's Blind". In this version, knotted ropes replaced papyrus husks and a hood was worn over the face. Somewhere along the line, the game received a name. Although the tamer version is known today as Blindman's Bluff, the name is actually a corruption of its original title. The "buff" comes from the same source as "buffet" for a blow. The game was popular mostly among adults - Samuel Pepys recorded in his diary several rollicking games.

The game reached its highest popularity among adults, though, in the 17th and 18th centuries. Fondling replaced hitting, and the game was a popular form of court play (which was often foreplay). Casanova writes about playing the naughty version with a group of sisters. The game was enjoyed by all until the Victorian era, when those fuddy-duddies forbade the fondling.

Nowadays, the game is played by spinning the blindfoldee around until they are dizzy, and then setting them free to try and catch a participant. Only a tag-touch is required to catch someone - and identifying the caught child cannot be done by touching. In some variations, the blindfolded person has to ask their prey questions after catching them in an attempt to identify them. Of course, no fondling or whacking.
Man, they take the fun out of everything these days.




Sources:
the excellent book Panati's Parade of Fads, Follies, and Manias
http://www.quinion.com/words/topicalwords/tw-buf1.htm
http://www.idiom.com/~drjohn/erotic.html
http://digilander.iol.it/cfgames2000/games_romania_petru10.html

Blind"man's buff" (). [See Buff a buffet.]

A play in which one person is blindfolded, and tries to catch some one of the company and tell who it is.

Surely he fancies I play at blindman's buff with him, for he thinks I never have my eyes open. Stillingfleet.

 

© Webster 1913.

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