25 January 2011


The term "Mumblety-peg" came from the practice of putting a peg of about 2 or 3 inches into the ground. The loser of the game had to take it out with his teeth. Mumbletypeg was very popular as a schoolyard game in the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth centuries, but with increased concern over child safety the game has declined in popularity...

Mumblety peg is generally played between two people with the aid of a pocket knife. In one version of the game, two opponents stand opposite one another with their feet shoulder-width apart. The first player then takes the knife and throws it to "stick" in the ground as near his own foot as possible. The second player then repeats the process. Whichever player "sticks" the knife closest to his own foot wins the game.

If a player "sticks" the knife in his own foot, he wins the game by default...
Photo reproduction of 1922 magazine page via Centuries of Advice & Advertisement.

Addendum:  Rules here, courtesy of Doc Rock.


  1. When I was a kid we played mumbledy-peg (that's how we pronounced it) kneeling or standing. The goal was to have your knife make as close to a right angle with the ground as possible. No one stood together or aimed at feet. If your knife stuck "straight up," you won.

  2. We would start with feet together, facing each other and about an arm length apart. Object was to stick knife in the ground a maximum distance- but no more than a foot width- from opponent's foot. If knife stuck inside that distance, you had to move your foot out until it touched the knife. Alternating turns, the first person to loose his balance lost. "Foot width" rule helped overcome size differences between opponents.

    This would have been late 60's to early 70's, and it was pretty popular in SE Ohio.

  3. Like the pictures with the barely legible (with my 70 year old eyes) descriptions, we had to make the knife stick from a variety of positions off shoulder, elbow, etc. The coup de grace was called "Johnny-jump-the-fence" in which the knife was stuck, blade down in the ground and the "thrower" had to hit the knife with one hand to make it jump over the other hand (on the ground with palm facing the knife) by hitting it and making it jump the hand-fence and stick in the ground on the other side.

  4. See the rules at this link:


  5. One version that I have seen, and played (only once or twice when I was MUCH younger) didn't aim the knife at your OWN foot, but rather at the foot of your opponent, with the rule that if you hit your opponent, you lost.

  6. We (in the Netherlands) still played a similar game in the early eighties. Not sure what thirty years did to that, though. I'm reading about the transition from subsistence to market economy in New England - someone who slept from 1810 to 1830 would not have recognized his world.

  7. "If a player "sticks" the knife in his own foot, he wins the game by default..."



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