Q From Garry Vass: I’m an American working in London. While watching some children play tag in a playground, I noticed that several of them, from time to time, would cross their fingers over their heads and shout something like vanitz. This seemed to signify that they were out of the game temporarily. Do you have an idea what this word was?
A That’s a sharp observation of a bit of children’s language. It means just what you say, to call for a pause or truce in a game. It’s variously spelt, as fainites, faynits, or fains, all of which are a slight corruption, or a running-together, of fain I, or fain it. In fact, it’s often said as though it’s spelt “fain-its”. The word is school slang dating from at least the 1870s, but it was a dialect term earlier still. It’s a form of fend, which at one time had a meaning of “to forbid”. Another version current last century was fen, often said as ven.
Search World Wide Words
Recently added or updated
Lie Doggo; Fewmet; Dingbat; Kibosh; Caucus; Oryzivorous; Kick the bucket; Satisficer; Beside oneself; Words of the Year 2015; Peradventure; Sconce; Orchidelirium; How’s your father; Goon; Emoji; Thank your mother for the rabbits; Nonplussed; Bob’s-a-dying; Methinks; Bill of goods; Binge-watching; Codswallop; That’s all she wrote; Great Scott.
Support World Wide Words!
Donate via PayPal. Select your currency from the list and click Donate.
Buy from Amazon and get me a small commission at no cost to you. Select your preferred site and click Go!