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king’s ex exclam, n

Also king(’s), king(’s) sax, king’s (s)cruse; for addit varr see quots[Cf EDD king’s, ~ cruise, ~ ground, ~ speech (at king sb. 10, 1.[13], [23], [45]). According to 1959 (1967) Opie–Opie Lore Schoolchildren 141–53, kings and crosses are common truce terms in ceEngl; (s)cruce(s) and exes are also attested. Although ex is often assumed to be an abbr for excuse, it seems more likely that it, as well as (s)cruce(s) and crosses, refers to the act of crossing the fingers, often an essential part of claiming a truce or time out.]chiefly west of Missip R, Gulf States, Ohio ValleySee Map and Map Section

Used to demand a pause, exemption, or truce during a fight or game; the momentary truce or state of immunity so demanded.

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  • 1856 Watson Men & Times 60 VA (as of 1778), My attention was attracted by a fight between two very unwieldy, fat men . . until one succeeding . . in the act of thrusting . . his thumb into the latter’s eye, he bawled out “king’s cruse,” equivalent, in technical language, to “enough.”
  • 1889 MLN 4.121, I have sought in vain for the origin of this old phrase, variously pronounced in various localities: King’s cruse, King’s truce, King’s ’scuse (excuse), King’s ex (short for excuse).
  • 1890 DN 1.61 swOH, King: (like barley) a child’s word, to intermit play, for a rest. The opposite is king out.
  • Ibid 65 KY, King’s excuse. . . Abbreviated to king’s ex. In playing base, when a boy falls down, to keep from being caught he says, “King’s ex.”
  • 1892 DN 1.217 NC, King’s excuse. . . Lieutenant Darnall reports the North Carolina phrase as king’s crew.
  • 1893 Shands MS Speech 72, King’s ex or King’s excuse. Used in Mississippi as in Missouri for the purpose of stopping children’s games—as tag or base.
  • 1899 (1912) Green VA Folk-Speech 250, King’s cruse. . . A cry to stop a game; or a fight; enough! King’s truce? Scruse.
  • 1903 (1963) Newell Games & Songs 186, [In marble play:] If any accident happens, and the opponent’s play is to be checked, a Georgia lad will say “King’s excuse.” That this is an ancient phrase is shown by the corruption of the same cry in Pennsylvania, “King’s scruse.”
  • 1905 DN 3.62 NE, King’s ex.
  • 1906 DN 3.144 nwAR, King’s ax, king’s ex(cuse).
  • 1908 DN 3.327 eAL, wGA, King’s ex(cuse).
  • 1916 DN 4.346 New Orleans LA, King’s X. . . An exclamation in playing tag, to indicate that a player is temporarily out of the game.
  • 1920 Topeka Daily Capital (KS) 24 Jan 4/2, Has the time come when there is no “King’s ex” any more on the globe?
  • 1946 in 1969 Frost Poetry 399, [Title:] U.S. 1946 King’s X, [Poem:] Having invented a new Holocaust,/ And been the first with it to win a war,/ How they make haste to cry with fingers crossed,/ King’s X—no fairs to use it anymore!
  • 1950 WELS Suppl. WI, 6 Infs, King’s ex; 3 Infs, King’s ex—had to have (or show) fingers, etc. crossed.
  • [1959 (1967) Opie–Opie Lore Schoolchildren 143, In England and Wales the usual way a child shows that he wants to drop out of a game is by crossing fingers.]
  • Ibid 150, Exes. . . Probably a form of ‘crosses’.
  • 1965–70 DARE
    Qu. EE17, In a game of tag, if a player wants to rest, what does he call out so that he can’t be tagged?
    266 Infs, chiefly west of Missip R, Gulf States, Ohio Valley, King’s ex; 23 Infs, scattered, King’s; NJ4, SC26, King; AR28, IN10, MO11, OH72, King’s ax (or hex, rest); [IA27, I’m kings;] MN42, TX101, King(’s) sax; TX54, King sets; TX38, King’s excuse; IL7, King’s out; IN35, King’s sick;
    Qu. EE20, When two boys are fighting, and the one who is losing wants to stop, he calls out, “_____.”
    45 Infs, chiefly Missip-Ohio Valleys, West, King’s ex; IN35, King’s; MS1, King’s sax.
  • 1973 Jrl. Amer. Folkl. 86.132 IN, Only five children [out of 351] reported what appear to be traditional terms: “Kings” (2), “I’ve got Kings X” (1), “Black-outs” (1), and “Queens” (1).
king’s ex + varr (Qq. EE17, EE20)