"Olly olly oxen freeze" - what are they saying and what does it mean?
“Olly, Olly Oxen Free” is a chant used by children to call in all players at the end of a hide-and- seek game. The origin of this expression is not very clear, but some understand it as “Everybody all come free”. That's all I know.
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When I was a kid we yelled olly olly in come free.
Olli Olli oxen free is really "All ye All ye walks in free" said very fast with a stong lower-class British accent. To an American ear it would sound like All e All e aux in free when said quickly.
With a lower-class British accent, the "w" gets dropped in "walks" as does the "y" in "ye." Try it a few times and you will see what I mean.
Calling All Outs In Free. If you put your hands around your mouth and shout it, it comes out Olly Oxen in Free. In Chicago, in our games we would say Oley, Oley Ocean, in free free, which made even less sense. Hope that helps.
Dr. Michelle Wendy Hacker
oh, and olly olly oxen free means that children are paying a game (maybe hide and seek), and the people who are hiding can come out.
The exact origin of the phrase is unknown, but etymologists suspect it is a childish corruption of the German "Alle, alle auch sind frei!", (literally, "Everyone, everyone also is free!"), which is purported to have been a cruel joke often played upon Holocaust victims by their jailers. At any particular time, a prisoner might be released, immediately upon which the phrase would be shouted. Any other prisoners who also left would be killed further down the road by Nazi soldiers.
Gordon Leeman. WWII: The True Story. 1987.
William Cartel. History of Germany. Revised and Expanded. 1815-1990.
The etymology above is highly suspect, though ingenious, as the phrase was almost certainly in use long before WWII.
Another theory is that it is a corruption of the phrase, "calling all the outs in free".
It's a bastardization of the phrase "All the all the 'outs' in free". At least that's what we always yelled when we played. I never heard the oxen phrase until we played with some neighbor kids of our grandparents. Olly olly oxen makes absolutely no sense at all.
People are waiting to help.
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