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History of Truth or Dare
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torakowalski wrote in little_details
Where: New York
When: 1930s/40s

I'm trying to find out how far back the game 'truth or dare' goes.

Googling 'history of truth or dare game' has told me that there's no record of it being played before the 1950s, but I just wanted to check whether anyone here knows for sure if that's accurate? Specifically, I need to know whether boys growing up in New York in the 1930s and early 1940s would have played it.


Looking up "dare double dare" which I was pretty sure went back to early 1900s England or further went to Wiki citing "Questions and Command" games from 1712 and referring to similar games back to the ancient Greeks, so I would bet a game along those lines existed if not that exact phrase.

For comparison in my southern English schools in the 1980s the game was known as "dare dare double dare, love, kiss [or truth], promise" Truth only involved when no boys available to kiss!

In Australia it was "dare, dare, double dare, kiss, truth, promise." Very similar! No-one ever chose "kiss" because yuck, boys.

1970s/80s Buckinghamshire, England we played "truth dare, double dare, love, kiss or promise".

The Opies (Children's Games in Street and Playground) refer to them as 'daring games' and cites versions in France ('Roi qui ne ment') in 1345, 'Questions' in 1598 and (most relevant for you 'Truth' played by the party at Camp Laurence in Little Women 1868.

There's a specific US reference to the game as 'stumped' instead of 'dared' - W M Thayer's From Log Cabin to the White House (1881) records James Garfield as havig been 'stumped' to "swaller a pullet's egg" in his youth.

I think you're safe with 'Truth or Dare' in 1930s New York.

NB 'Dares' gone wrong occasionally ended up in the press when children were seriously injured (or died) - especialy after the coming of the railways and the combustion engine.

You beat me with the Opies. They're an excellent source for this type of question.

It's one occasion where having a physical library trumps the internet!

(I keep the Opies for 'comfort reading'.)

I always heard about "truth, dare, double dare, promise to repeat."


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