Fortunately, I have my own theory. It’s not much of a theory, and I have absolutely no evidence for it, so caveat lector. My theory is that “roshambo” has nothing to do with anything Jean-Baptiste Yadda Yadda, Comte de Rochambeau did or did not do regarding RPS. I think it came about because American History courses taught to schoolchildren in the 19th and early 20th centuries almost certainly required them to learn about Jean-Baptiste and to memorize his name. When, during recess, the children then used RPS to settle a dispute, the ornate three-syllable name “Ro-cham-beau” would have been on their little minds and thus a natural for a counting chant during the game. They could as easily have chanted “Wash-ing-ton,” of course, but “Ro-cham-beau” actually sounds like an exotic magic incantation. And “roshambo” is a lot easier to say than “rock-paper-scissors.”

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6 comments on this post.
  1. Wayne Brehaut:

    You rock!

  2. Alex Brant-Zawadzki:

    Seems logical to me that Rochambeau could take that long to be used enough to designate an arbitrary “first known use”.

    You yourself said you hadn’t heard RPS referred to as Ro Sham Bo, and information is a bit more readily available these days.

    I’ll bet there were also dozens of colloquialisms/idioms that were deemed too indecent or povertous to print.

  3. Kayla:

    Seems roshambo is primarily used in the US part of the English-speaking world. I’d never heard RPS referred to as anything but Rock Paper Scissors until very recently (an episode of Castle on DVD & in the game World of Warcraft in the past few weeks). I’ve been trying to pin down the origin of the word to no avail. The sainted Wikipedia suggests that RPS was not widely known in the USA in around 1932 so I doubt the Civil War ref is anything but an attempt to retrofit the word & give it some plausibility rather than admit they don’t know.

  4. Compte de Roshambo:

    You paper!

  5. Michael:

    You sciss!

  6. john Vonderlin:

    While doing an art piece I researched this. It seems an educator who was making a book of simple games to distribute to schools some time in the late 30s generated the first known in print evidence of it. The researcher did some background checking and found this educator lived in an apartment complex in Washington D.C. that had the name and in the adjoining park a statue of Marshall Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vineur de Rochambeau, the Commander-in-Chief of the French Expeditionary Force which embarked from France in order to help the Continental Army fight against British forces. Tradition had him as the likely source of the game’s name, as Rachembeau was an alternate spelling, but no historic connection between him and the game had been established. This origin seemed very logical and is the story I attached to my piece. The history researcher who wrote the blog piece about this was very convincing.

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