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July 18, 2009


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Gabriel Levine

In the early 1950s in Cheshire (near Stockport) we did exactly the same, except that we said, "I'm barleys" or just "Barleys".

Virtual Linguist

That's interesting, as Stockport isn't far from Liverpool. Thank you for commenting, Gabriel.


When I was at school in Cardiff in the 50's we used the word 'Cree'. I am guessing this originates from 'Christ' but only a guess.


I'm in Melbourne, Australia, and in our family we still use the expression 'barley'. (My mother came from Edinburgh in the 1920s.)

Virtual Linguist

Thanks for all the comments, and for visiting the blog.

jo keene

I grew up in Essex in the 1980s-1990s and we said 'twixies'.

Virtual Linguist

Thanks for letting me know, Jo. That's a new one for me.


In Perth, Scotland, we put both our thumbs up and said "Bees". My older sister, who went to school in the West of Scotland tells me that she said "keys".

Virtual Linguist

Thanks to you and your sister, Peef. Those are both new ones for me.

Jo Collier

In Oldham (late 70's) we used to put our thumbs up and say "Barleys" or "Barley-bungalows"!

Virtual Linguist

Thanks, Jo. It looks as if barleys is a north-west expression. Barley-bungalows is a nice one!


In the 1950s in Stafford, Staffordshire, I remember 'Barleys' was the truce word. Some kids used to say 'Barleycorns' which seemed to carry more emphasis.

Virtual Linguist

Thanks, Tim - Barleycorns is yet another variant! Thanks for reading and for commenting.


1970s North London we said "fainites"

Virtual Linguist

Thanks very much for reading and for your comment, Michelle.

Kate King

In the SEin the 70's we said 'vains' though I haven't a clue how it was spelt. Maybe this links in with the London variant ( imy school was a boarding school and I think it had relocated from the London area several decades earlier) I think we had to cross fingers too. I have a faint memory of 'cross keys' this would probably be Bedfordshire in early 70s.

Virtual Linguist

Thanks, Kate. Yes, perhaps 'vains' was from 'fainites'. 'Cross keys' sounds similar to the 'keys' someone said in Scotland, which is interesting, given the distance between Bedfordshire and the west of Scotland.

Nigel Bristowe

I grew up near Leicester in the 50's and 60's. The most common truce word was: "Squoggs" - effective only if your fingers were crossed. I also remember hearing: "Croggs" and "Croggies".

Virtual Linguist

Thanks, Nigel. Well, those are new ones for me - good for Leicester!

Bob Leiser

I grew up in Fife, where the term was "Peasies". I recall a colleague - can't remember where from - telling me they used "Pax".

Virtual Linguist

Thanks, Bob. Yet more variants. Fascinating how inventive children are, isn't it?

Mark Lansdell

In Wingham (a rural village in Kent, east of Canterbury) my children and their friends use what sounds like "taxis". I’ve googled hard but haven't found any other references to this use. However, I was interested to see "twixies" and "cross keys" mentioned above. I wonder if all three have a common origin.

Virtual Linguist

Thanks, Mark. Perhaps they are saying 'exes', which is related to 'crosses'. Have you seen the Wikipedia page?

Mark Lansdell

No there is an unmistakable "t" at the beginning. In fact it is unmistakably "taxees". I had written "sounds like" in my first comment merely because I'm sure in their own minds they are not simply referring to the plural of "taxi".

Nonetheless, I agree it could very well have originated as a corruption of "exes". I'm particularly glad you suggested that term, as I had been racking my brain trying to remember what I had used as a child, and indeed "exes" (pronounced "exees") it was. That's Norfolk in the 1970s (which is in keeping with the Wikipedia entry – thanks).

If it were the case that my children’s "taxees" has morphed from "exes" it would be fascinating to know when it happened. I wonder if it is likely to be a recent mishearing peculiar to the current generation, or alternatively a long-established term at their particular school. Has the evolution of truce terms ever been studied in a single location?

Virtual Linguist

Thanks again, Mark. Peter and Iona Opie studied this in great detail in the 1950s and 60s, but I don't know of other research since. I see the British Library seems to have a project on it. They are asking for information from the general public, and that may be available to consult. See here:

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