A Facebook meme (with 146 thousand shares) asks:
How old were you when you learned that the game TAG stands for "Touch and Go"
I was today years old...
Is the etymology of the game tag an acronym of "touch and go"?
No, but the association between "tag" and "touch and go" is more than 100 years old.
See the 1912 printing of the song A GAME OF TAG:
playing tag, Touch and go
And in the 1902 Music for the child world: Rhythms, marches and games there is also the song "GAME OF TAG" (music only, no lyrics), with the note below the title "Touch and go. Good for all kinds of running games. …"
Nonetheless, the February 1866 American Agriculturist, volume XXV, at page 67 says:
Game of “Tag,” with variations
Probably every boy and girl of ten years old knows how to play the old game of “tag.” It is so old that the children of the Roman empire used to play it thousands of years ago; the name “tag” comes from their language, tago, or tango, as it written in later times, meaning “I touch.”
Similarly, the 1848 The pentamerone, or, The story of stories, translated by J.E. Taylor says:
… English game of 'Tag' (Touch, from the Latin tango or tago), in which one, who is called Tag, runs after and tries to touch the others ; when he succeeds he cries Tag, and the one touched becomes Tag in his turn
Also, the 1828 Webster's Dictionary says:
the original orthography of the Latin tango, to touch, which was tago.
Other dictionaries such as the Century Dictionary (1891) dispute the Latin origin theory, instead saying the origin is unknown.
In Drayton's 1622 Poly-Olbion, song 30, it is stated:
Whereas the mountain nymphs, and those that do frequent
The fountains, fields and groves, with wondrous merriment,
By moonshine many a night, do give each other chase,
At Hood-wink, Barley-break, at Tick, or prison-base
and in Francis Willughby's Book of Games, written in the 1660s, it is stated:
One boy touches another and cries, Tick. Hee that is touched runs after the other that touched him, to tick him againe, and then runs from him as soone as hee has touched him. Hee that is ticked, & cannot tick againe, is beaten.
So one theory, as explained in The Lore of the Playground: One hundred years of children's games, is that "tick" was the original term for the game, and the names "tag" and "tig" derived therefrom.
A manuscript writen by a great Uncle of mine, who dy'd soon after the Revolution came lately into my hands. It is a sort of chronological animadversion upon the Plays and Pastimes of Children […]
In Queen Mary's Reign, TAG was all the Play; where the Lad saves himself by touching of cold Iron – By this it was intended to shew the Severity of the Church of Rome; and that if People had once gone off to the Reformers, tho' they were willing to return to their old Idolatry, they must do it upon hard Terms – But in latter Times, this Play hath been alter'd amongst Children of Quality, by touching of Gold instead of Iron.
Created an account just to answer this question.
Whilst 'tango' does indeed mean touch, I don't think this is the true origin.
It only takes 5 minutes to Google (and/or a knowledge of British 'tag' variants) to know that tag is sometimes called 'tig', although this isn't really in common use in the modern day.
Tig's origin is supposedly from the old English word 'tick' - to lightly touch.
The old English word tick derives from the Dutch word 'tik' or 'tikken' - to touch.
Following is under the headword "tick" in "Folk-etymology: A Dictionary of Verbal Corruptions Or Words Perverted in Form or Meaning, by False Derivation or Mistaken Analogy" (1882) Google Books
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