Know how to play ‘Coronavirus’, the game?


Kate Greenaway’s illustration from Mother Goose or the Old Nursery Rhymes (1881), showing children playing the game

In China, children are reportedly playing the ‘Coronavirus’ game. It goes something like this. The children breathe on one of the players, who is subsequently quarantined in a zone from which he or she has to try and break free.

By all accounts, ‘Coronavirus’, the game, is very popular. This is not surprising, for children are carriers of contemporary concerns.

Remember Ring a Ring o’ Roses?

The nursery rhyme runs something like this:

Ring-a-ring o’ roses,
A pocket full of posies,
A-tishoo! A-tishoo!
We all fall down.

And while it’s not proven, there’s long been speculation that it might refer to the Great Plague in the 17th century, or may be even the Black Death, earlier. According to Peter and Iona Opie, who know quite a bit about nursery rhymes, the sneezing and falling down seems to indicate disease, as does a rosy rash and the posies of herbs that were carried around as protection.

Some cast doubt on this but given the way ‘Coronavirus’, the game, has got going, it would hardly be outrageous if Ring a Ring o’ Roses referred to an outbreak of disease.