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What is Mumblety-Peg?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 01 August 2014
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Mumblety-peg is a game which is played with pocket knives. There are a number of variations on mumblety-peg, ranging from a version almost like war to a version which requires demonstrations of skill with a throwing knife. Up until the early 20th century, mumblety-peg was a very popular children's game, played at schoolyards all over the world, but concerns about the safety of games which involve throwing knives have led to a phasing out of this once popular pastime.

The name of the game comes from “mumble the peg,” a reference to the fact that in early versions of the game, the loser was required to pull a peg out of the ground with his or her teeth. The game is also known as “mumble-de-peg” and “mumbletypeg.” All versions of the game rely on the same basic principle: when thrown right, a knife will land blade first, penetrating the ground. Most versions of the game are designed for two players.

In the most basic version of mumblety-peg, players simply try to get the knife as close to their feet as possible. In another variant, players throw their knives at each other, with the opposing player being required to move his or her foot to the space where the knife lands. The idea is that eventually, players will not be able to stretch a leg to the landing point, and they will become unbalanced; the first player to fall or lose footing loses.

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In a more complex version of mumblety-peg, players are required to demonstrate progressively more challenging knife throwing moves. In some regions, there are a prescribed series of moves that players were expected to go through, and in other regions players simply mimic each other, creating a series of more and more challenging tosses. If a player's knife fails to land upright, he or she loses.

Some people may remember a version of mumblety-peg which is based on gaining territory. In this version, a circle or another shape is divided in two by the players to create two territories. The first player tosses his or her knife into the territory of the opponent, establishing the start of a line which can be used to take over a section of the opponent's territory. In many versions of the game, only straight lines may be drawn, making this game progressively harder to win as the territory is repeatedly chopped up.

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