Leapfrog: a history

LEAPFROG, my book that first came out in 2019, is in the final stages for its THIRD EDITION release. It’s been a labor of love, just as my memoir was. From the start, I’ve wanted this book to do good work, to help bring about change, and to sell. The improvements I’ve made, thanks to all the feedback I’ve been receiving, will help to do just that, I believe.

One suggestion that came my way recently is that I offer a brief explanation to my readers of just what the old fashioned game of leapfrog is about: the rules, the object, the history.

So I googled it.

Well, I used “duck-duck-go” but how do I turn that one into a verb?

I digress.

My first surprise was that leapfrog, in its many variations, has been around since the late 1500s. I also learned that Americans seem to be the only ones to leap over a frog. In France it’s a sheep; in Romania, Holland, and China it’s a goat; in India, a horse; and in the Philippines it’s a cow. Yes, leapcow, leapsheep, and leapgoat thrive around the globe.

With a few exceptions that I’ll get to in a bit, the game remains essentially the same around the world. Whoever goes first places their hands on their knees, bends over and “gives a back” to the next participant, inviting them to place their hands on the bent over back and jump, legs spread wide apart. Once over without touching, they then place their hands on their knees and “give a back.” And on it goes, inching forward sometimes in a straight line, sometimes not so straight.

This, I thought, was an ideal metaphor for my book, subtitled How to hold a civil conversation in an uncivil era.

This whimsical cover design from reader Sharon Lippincott back in 2017 pushed me forward to turn my eight blog posts into a book:

Two people. That’s what I had in mind. What I didn’t realize is that the number of participants playing leapfrog is not fixed. Some descriptions contained more than a dozen, forming a line as tightly connected as possible. Another description included rising up from the bend as each round of the game goes on until, finally, someone bumps the person and is disqualified.

In the game I remembered as a child, the object was to take turns as we moved forward some distance, sometimes in a straight line and other times not so much. This was the image I held when LEAPFROG, the book, was born.

How about you?

Did you play leapfrog when you were growing up? How well does this metaphor work for the purpose of my acronym?

12 Responses

  1. Darlene Foster
    | Reply

    We played leap frog growing up on the Canadian prairies. I think it is a great metaphor as we need each other to move forward.
    Darlene Foster recently posted…100 Word Story #4My Profile

  2. Clive
    | Reply

    Congratulations on getting a third edition, I hope it goes well for you. Americans aren’t alone in leaping frogs, however, whatever the ducks that went told you: the game has always been known as leapfrog here in the UK too, and I’m guessing that maybe the Pilgrim Fathers took it over there?
    Clive recently posted…Tuesday Tunes 78: TuesdayMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      That’s so hood to know, Clive. Thanks. Looks like leapfrog may well have come over on the Mayflower. Good to know yet another thing we share with our cousins across the pond. (And to our north)
      Janet Givens recently posted…Leapfrog: a historyMy Profile

    • Carolyn
      | Reply

      Certainly did have it when I was a child. It was played in the school playground and started with maybe 3 or 4 and then more would join in. (I vaguely remember a song from “Oh, What a Lovely War” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bahJ1eVOELY)

  3. Marian Beaman
    | Reply

    Good for you, Janet! I read and reviewed this fine book in its first edition: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3224399641

    About the metaphor: In addition to working for the acronym, it also suggests advancing in concert. It’s not possible to play leapfrog alone. As Darlene mentions, we need each other to move forward.

    I liked the history you provided too. Congrats on getting this far with another edition, and best wishes in getting it out into the world–again. Our forlorn society needs this now more than ever.
    Marian Beaman recently posted…Sleeping in a Schoolhouse and Snooping into BookstoresMy Profile

  4. Tracy
    | Reply

    Taking turns. Offering support, accepting support to move. Trusting. Bearing. Yep. It’s a good acronym for civil discourse.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Great additions, Tracy. I’ll be sure to weave them in. Thanks for being the impetus for this history addition.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Leapfrog: a historyMy Profile

  5. Betty Sue
    | Reply

    I’m glad we do leap-frog – I can’t imagine myself leaping a sheep or goat, much less a cow or horse! :o)
    Congratulations on getting another edition ready for press.

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