Tuesday, January 9, 2018


“You know how to play Tin-Tin?” So asks a character in Shirley Jackson’s novel The Road Through the Wall (1948), which has a long passage devoted to this game. The novel’s narrator says that Tin-Tin is “probably as old as children.” I managed to turn up exactly one description of Tin Tin (no hyphen) in a letter to the Junior Eagle Game Club, a feature of The Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

[The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, October 17, 1915.]

In Jackson’s novel the game is a bit different: the tin seller is “It”; the buyer is “Victim”; there’s no husband/wife element; and the name is “some familiar word or name or nonsense syllable.” Missing from this 1915 description, I think, is what gives the game, at least in Jackson’s novel, a point: the answer to every question must be the player’s assigned name. As for the game’s name, there seems to be no relation to Hergé’s Tintin, at least none that I can suss out.

As you might guess, every letter to “Aunt Jean” is signed by a “niece” or “nephew.” You want your name in the paper, kid, you play along with Aunt Jean, see?

[Thanks to the Brooklyn Public Library, whose Brooklyn Newsstand made this post possible.]

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