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Old 08-30-2012, 03:29 PM
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Why is the game "Are you there, Moriarty?" called that?

If you're not familiar with the game "Are you there, Moriarty?", it goes like this:
  1. Two people lie face-down on the floor, blindfolded and holding rolled-up newspapers. They clasp their left hands together.
  2. Person A asks, "Are you there, Moriarty?"
  3. Person B replies "yes" when they're "ready."
  4. Then they attempt to hit each other with the newspapers while avoiding being hit themselves.
  5. Whoever gets bonked first loses.

My question is, where did this game get its name? All I've been able to find is that it seems to be related to the game "Big Brother," which is exactly the same except vertical and without the joined-at-the-hands aspect. I assume it has something to do with Sherlock Holmes (the positioning of the players references the end of "The Final Problem," maybe?) or the music-hall song about an Irish policeman also called "Are You There, Moriarty?" but I really have no idea.
Old 08-30-2012, 03:59 PM
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I have never heard of this before. Unless I'm missing something, it sounds extraordinarily stupid ("What's the object of the game?" "We hit each other with rolled-up newspapers.") The famous Moriarty in literature is, of course, Sherlock Holmes' nemesis Professor Moriarty, author of "The Dynamics of an Asteroid", and the great criminal mastermind of London. Somehow I can't imagine Holmes and the Professor clasping left hands and bashing each other with newspapers.


Maybe it got that name because it seems so inappropriate.



Wikipedia dioesn't seem to have anything on this despite the bare descriptioon, and the "game's" appearance in the 2011 film One Day, which I alsdo have not heard of.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Are_you_there_Moriarty%3F

Last edited by CalMeacham; 08-30-2012 at 04:01 PM.
Old 08-30-2012, 04:07 PM
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I’ve never heard of this game either, but it reminds me of one my brother and I used to play. We’d go into the room where our great-grandma was watching TV and start ‘rasslin’. She’d start flailing around with her cane, crying, “Danny! Cathy! David! Stop that!” Whoever got whacked first, or whoever’s name she got right first, was the loser.
Old 08-30-2012, 04:08 PM
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This seems to be a Victorian parlour game, which would fit with the Holmes thing. Apparently the Royal family played it (upon which I will not comment further). But my favorite observation is this one:


Quote:
At a superficial level, the art of this game appears to be in the bluff and double-bluff involved in twisting your arm one way but moving the other, saying "Yes" and then moving before you can be hit, and so on. In practice, though, the game normally proceeds quite quickly to a deeper level in which one of the players secretly removes his blindfold and just hits his opponent repeatedly over the head. Proper etiquette in this situation dictates that none of the spectators should warn the victim as to what's going on.
http://independent.co.uk/news/uk...es-429526.html


Yes, that's exactly what would happen with the folks I know. It seems to me that the best way to play this game is to abstain.


There are several YouTube videos of people playing this. They don't all seem to be folowing the rules.

Last edited by CalMeacham; 08-30-2012 at 04:09 PM.
Old 08-30-2012, 07:15 PM
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I believe I once read a book called "Are You There, Moriarty? And Other Party Games for a Weekend in a British Country House with Upper-Class Twits." It was about as advertised. Though I do seem to remember one game which did sound like fun: something about field hockey played with umbrellas, only each player has to wear a hat, and if you knock the hat off an opponent's head they can't play the ball, so the game quickly devolves into 3 people trying to play field hockey with umbrellas while everybody else runs around frantically knocking off everybody's hat.

None of which answers your question at all, I know, but maybe the book could shed some light on the origin of the name. (Though probably not.)
Old 08-30-2012, 07:17 PM
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I first heard of this game when it occurred in a movie I saw recently, although I can't remember which one.
Old 08-30-2012, 09:34 PM
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I'm as big a Holmes fan as you'll ever hope to meet, and I've never heard of this game.
Old 08-30-2012, 09:42 PM
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Sounds like it would be more fun if alcohol was involved.
Old 08-30-2012, 09:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Elendil's Heir View Post
I'm as big a Holmes fan as you'll ever hope to meet, and I've never heard of this game.
Ditto.
Old 08-31-2012, 12:59 AM
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I've never heard of the game, but I'm reasonably sure that the name derives not from Conan Doyle, but from the Goon Show, a 1950s radio comedy show on the BBC that starred Peter Sellers, Harry Secombe, and Spike Milligan. Among the regular cast of oddball characters was Count Jim Moriarty, played by Milligan, who was a sidekick to the show's perennial villain, Hercules Grytpype-Thynne.

The Goon Show virtually invented surreal comedy, and was a direct influence on the founders of Monty Python, the Firesign Theatre, and countless other comedians and humorists. As such, it seems an apt inspiration for such an absurd and pointless game.

As a final, I think clinching, bit of evidence, I give you this CD collection, named, as many of the sets were, after a common catch phrase from the show: Moriarty, Where Are You? It does not seem a great stretch to me to imagine that someone invented this Goonish game and named it after a misremembered catch phrase.
Old 08-31-2012, 01:43 PM
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Ever since I read the Sherlock Holmes books as a kid, I've wondered:

Just how do you pronounce Moriarty? Which syllable has the accent?
Old 08-31-2012, 02:06 PM
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MOR - ee - AR - tee, with slightly more emphasis on the third syllable.

On the Goon Show, Sellers would occasionally pronounce it mor - EYE - ar - tee, and there is a fan legend that that was a sign he was angry at Milligan about something, but I'm skeptical.
Old 08-31-2012, 02:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dewey Finn View Post
I first heard of this game when it occurred in a movie I saw recently, although I can't remember which one.
Probably One Day. I can't remember if it was specifically named in the movie, but it was in the book.
Old 08-31-2012, 02:11 PM
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Yep, that was it. I had to Google the name after watching the movie because I'd never heard of the game before. I take the existence of this game as evidence that the British are weird.
Old 08-31-2012, 02:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dewey Finn View Post
Yep, that was it. I had to Google the name after watching the movie because I'd never heard of the game before. I take the existence of this game as evidence that the British are weird.
For the record, I already noted that the game was in that movie in post #2.

Last edited by CalMeacham; 08-31-2012 at 02:38 PM.
Old 12-05-2013, 09:49 PM
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Sorry to bring up an old thread - but I came across this game today, and when I was telling my boyfriend about it I couldn't remember the name of it exactly so I tried googling the phrase that's said by the participants as they try to bash each other over the head.

It was in a book published in 1906 by E.T. Seton calledThe Birch-Bark Roll of the Woodcraft Indians. Seton was a naturalist who was a good friend of both Lord Baden-Powell (who started the boy scouts) and Rudyard Kipling (who was a raging racist and author). Seton kind of bridged the two, and he's the reason why Scouts ended up with so much pseudo-American-Indian stuff.

Anyway, the original name of this game (according to Seton) was Swat-The-Blindman. Nice to know the early Boyscouts (who used his books as extra handbooks) were so considerate and aware of how to deal with physically disabled people... j/k.
Old 12-05-2013, 10:11 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by babsbabs View Post

Anyway, the original name of this game (according to Seton) was Swat-The-Blindman. Nice to know the early Boyscouts (who used his books as extra handbooks) were so considerate and aware of how to deal with physically disabled people... j/k.
Sounds probably like a variation on "Blind Man's Buff" to me.
Old 12-05-2013, 11:52 PM
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I've heard of this game, but only as a British or maybe English game. I've never played it, and also wondered if it had something to do with Sherlock Holmes, as if that's the only Moriarty in the world.
Old 12-06-2013, 12:24 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by commasense View Post
I've never heard of the game, but I'm reasonably sure that the name derives not from Conan Doyle, but from the Goon Show, a 1950s radio comedy show on the BBC that starred Peter Sellers, Harry Secombe, and Spike Milligan. Among the regular cast of oddball characters was Count Jim Moriarty, played by Milligan, who was a sidekick to the show's perennial villain, Hercules Grytpype-Thynne.
Hmm, I always assumed Moriarty in the Goons was himself derived from Conan Doyle's Moriarty, who Milligan must have been aware of. He is a stupid, incompetent criminal, and a sidekick rather than a leader, as opposed to a criminal mastermind, but presumably that is all part of the joke.

On the other hand, Moriarty is a fairly common Irish surname, and Milligan was of Irish extraction (though he didn't grow up in Ireland), so I don't know.

On a side note, back in the 1960s I visited the small, remote town of Dingle in the far west of Ireland. I noticed that many (almost all, as I recall it) of the shops there were called Moriarty's. My theory is that the evil professor also survived the epic struggle at the Reichenbach Falls, but, knowing Holmes was now onto him, went to ground in the west of Ireland, and founded a dynasty of shopkeepers.

As for the game, I don't really get it. If you are holding hands with the other person, how can it be at all difficult to locate and hit them, even blindfolded. Surely it would all be over in a second.
Old 12-06-2013, 08:17 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by njtt View Post
As for the game, I don't really get it. If you are holding hands with the other person, how can it be at all difficult to locate and hit them, even blindfolded. Surely it would all be over in a second.
I should imagine that if you are playing the game in the first place you would not be well endowed in the grey matter area.
Old 12-06-2013, 08:36 AM
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Quote:
Hmm, I always assumed Moriarty in the Goons was himself derived from Conan Doyle's Moriarty, who Milligan must have been aware of. He is a stupid, incompetent criminal, and a sidekick rather than a leader, as opposed to a criminal mastermind, but presumably that is all part of the joke.

On the other hand, Moriarty is a fairly common Irish surname, and Milligan was of Irish extraction (though he didn't grow up in Ireland), so I don't know.

On a side note, back in the 1960s I visited the small, remote town of Dingle in the far west of Ireland. I noticed that many (almost all, as I recall it) of the shops there were called Moriarty's. My theory is that the evil professor also survived the epic struggle at the Reichenbach Falls, but, knowing Holmes was now onto him, went to ground in the west of Ireland, and founded a dynasty of shopkeepers.
I noticed the same thing when we visited Ireland several years ago, and had my picture taken in front of one of the Moriarty shops.

This made me think about George Bernard Shaw's famed dislike of the sleuth. It always seemed odd because Holmes seems like the sort of character Shaw would love. Indeed, the similarities between Holmes/Watson and Prof. Higgins/Col. Pickering are so many and close that it's hard to think Shaw didn't base his Pygmalion characters on Doyle's. (And I couldn't get Shaw out of my head -- when we had been in Dublin a few days earlier we'd visited Shaw's house).

So why did Shaw dislike Holmes, passing him off as a mere drug addict? I recalled all those Moriartys in Derry. And Moriarty's right-hand man was Col. Sebastian Moran -- another Irish name. And Shaw himself was Irish. Maybe that said it all. (Shaw's Professor Higgins, the Holmes substitute, is shown to be prejudiced and insensitive about it, but in his case it's judging the Welsh -- also identified by their surnames -- as thieves and criminals).

Last edited by CalMeacham; 12-06-2013 at 08:36 AM.
Old 12-06-2013, 09:01 AM
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Teemings piece I wrote about Moriarty (and Shaw):

http://teemings.net/series_1/iss...almeacham.html
Old 12-06-2013, 09:29 AM
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A rousing game on youtube Actually shows something resembling tactics and cohesive game play.
Old 12-08-2013, 02:27 AM
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Originally Posted by babsbabs View Post
Rudyard Kipling (who was a raging racist
I reject that characterisation.
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