What Do You Call The Person Who’s “It” in Your Country?

In the US, when children play a game of tag, there will be one kid who’s “It”. That means they’re the one who has to run around and tag people. There are many different games where one person will be “It”. Being “It” could be good or bad depending on the game.

It seems the term is also used in New Zealand nowadays. Norman Preston wrote, “As a New Zealand septuagenarian, all I ever heard as a child was that the tagged person was ‘he’. But probably 40 years ago or more all our children began to say ‘it’. And that seems to be the rule, though one of our grandchildren simply calls out ‘tag’, which seems to be all that’s needed.”

Monique Palomares wrote, “In France, if we play cat or wolf, we say “le chat” (the cat) or “le loup” (the wolf). Otherwise, most of the time it’s, ‘celui qui y est’ (literally, ‘the one who’s in’ or ‘the one who’s there’).

‘Jouer à chat’ or ‘jouer au loup’ is the same thing in France as playing tag. And if you play ‘chat perché’ (perched cat), whoever is the cat does not have the right to touch you if you are ‘perched’ on something (standing on a stone, a root etc …).”

What do you call the person who’s “It” in your culture? Please comment below to let us know!

-Mama Lisa


UPDATE: On May 16th, the New York Times published an article on British and Irish dialects. One part was a poll about what people say in a game of tag. In different parts of the UK and Ireland, people say “It”, “tag,” “tick,” or “tig.”

This article was posted on Friday, May 14th, 2021 at 12:55 pm and is filed under "It" for Tag, Countries & Cultures, English, France, French, Languages, Mama Lisa, New Zealand, USA, Words & Phrases. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

2 Responses to “What Do You Call The Person Who’s “It” in Your Country?”

  1. Olivia Says:

    Hi Lisa,
    In Ireland we say a person is “on” when we play games such as Hide & Seek.
    Love your blog, it’s very interesting!

  2. Jo Maher Says:

    I was fascinated to learn that games such as these span time and distance!
    Here in Australia, growing up in the 1980’s, the chosen one was “IT”.
    I remember thinking that the word IT was interchangeable with being IN, and was therefore a privileged or special role. There was a great deal of magic conferred on the person who sang the chant to choose this special person.
    The chosen child would have power within the game, and so it was an exciting prospect to become the chosen player. Thank you for this brilliant archive, a treasure of childhood memories :) Joanne

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