Roshambo

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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3 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.

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