History of Simon Says

Simon says is a children’s game for 3 or more players where 1 player takes the role of ‘Simon’ and issues instructions (usually physical actions such as ‘jump in the air’ or ‘stick out your tongue’) to the other players, which should only be followed if prefaced with the phrase ‘Simon says’, for example ‘Simon says jump in the air’. Players are eliminated from the game by either following instructions that are not immediately preceded by the trigger phrase or by failing to follow an instruction which does include ‘Simon says’. It is the ability to distinguish between valid and invalid commands, rather than physical ability, that usually matters in the game; in most cases, the action just needs to be attempted.

‘Simon says’ originated from Latin, the Latin version was “Cicero dicit fac hoc”,meaning “Cicero says do this”. (Cicero was a powerful Roman politician).

The tradition behind the use of ‘Simon’ as the controller of the game may trace back to the year 1264, when Simon de Montfort captured King Henry III at the English town of Lewes. For the next year, any order Henry III gave could have been countermanded by de Montfort until Henry’s son Prince Edward took Simon’s castle by force.

This game has translated across multiple cultures from seemingly common routes and some international versions also use the name Simon such as the Spanish ”Simón dice”, “Símon segir” in Icelandic, “Szymon mówi” in Polish, “시몬 가라사대” (“Simon says”) in Korean, In Arabia: for example, “الجنرال عمل كده” (General commanded – Egypt version) or “قال المعلّم” (the teacher says – Lebanon version) and “سلمان يقول” (salmon says – Iraqi Version) in Arabic, “Kommando Pimperle” (or with similar rules “Alle Vögel fliegen hoch”) in German, “Jacques a dit” (“James said”) in French, “Jean dit” (John says) in Québec, “Commando” (the Dutch noun for “command”) or “Jantje zegt” in Flemish parts of Belgium, in Dutch, “הרצל אמר” (“Herzl said”) inHebrew, “Deir Ó Grádaigh” (“O’Grady says”) in Irish, “Razvan spune” (Razvan says) in Romanian, “Yakup der ki” in Turkish, “船長さんの命令” (‘Senchosan no meirei’ “Ship Captain’s orders”) in Japanese, “Kongen befaler” (“the king commands”) in Norwegian, “Kapteeni käskee” (“the captain commands”) in Finnish, “老師話” (“the teacher says”) in Cantonese, “O rei manda” (“the king orders”) in Portuguese, and “O mestre mandou” (“The master ordered”) in Brazilian Portuguese. A version also exists in India and Hungary where an analogy to what can fly and what cannot is emphasized instead of Simon saying or not, i.e. “Chidiya ud” (Hindi) which translates to Bird fly. The term ‘bird’ can then be replaced with a thing that cannot fly. This game is usually played more with gestures than actual jumping.