Knife Game Series: Mumblety-peg

Knife Game Series- Brughel painting of Mumblety-peg

In our Knife Games Series we look to games played with knives. Many of theses games are from days gone by as the popularity of carrying pocketknives, especially among school boys has declined.

Today’s edition features a knife game called Mumblety- peg (also known as┬ámumblepeg,┬ámumble-the-peg,┬ámumbledepeg or mumble-de-peg). I’ve always heard it called Mumble-peg.

While the origin of the game is impossible to determine, it is recounted in Tom Sawyer, Detective written by Mark Twain in 1896 as a boy’s favorite outdoor game.

Mumblety-peg has many variations. Some are only slightly different, others are totally different games.

The similarities, however, are they are all competitive and are usually played with two players. The other common element is the knife is more “flipped,” instead of thrown, in trying to stick it in the ground.

One of the simplest versions of the game is this one-

This is a game for two players, though more players can be involved. Usually, a circular target is drawn on the ground in soft earth. Players alternate turns. At a signal from one player, IT attempts to “drop” the knife into the target without looking.

In fact, it is this variation believed to be depicted in the 1560 painting by Pieter Brueghel called Young Folks At Play now displayed at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. There are at least 80 games going on in this scene and one is Mumblety-peg.

Another common variation is called “mumble the peg.” This game results in the loser pulling the knife (or peg) from the ground with his teeth, hence the term “mumble” the peg. Merriam-Webster dates the origin of this phrase to 1627.

Next up in the Knife Game Series- Split the Kipper

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Published in: on January 16, 2010 at 8:29 am  Leave a Comment  
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