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Whehee is a 17th-century English children’s card game described in Francis Willughby’s (1635–1672) “Book of Games”, where it was entered by an unidentified young person.A[p. 160]

Rules

Whehee is played with a standard 52-card deck.

The aim of the game is to be Whehee — that is, to have three cards of the same suit.

Each player is dealt three cards. If anyone is Whehee, they win straight away. Otherwise, starting from the player on the dealer’s left, and proceeding clockwise, each player exchanges one card with the player next in order. If any player becomes Whehee, then they win.

If the dealer exchanges without becoming Whehee, then another round of exchanges is performed, where each player may exchange with any other player. If no one becomes Whehee after this round, then the cards are turned in and another game is dealt.

Etymology

The meaning of the name is probably onomatopœic, that of a whinny or some other sound made by a horse. This usage goes right back to Chaucer, where in the Reeve’s tale:

He looketh up and doun til he hath founde
The clerkes hors, ther as it stood ybounde
Bihynde the mille, under a levesel;
And to the hors he goth hym faire and wel,
He strepeth of the brydel right anon.
And whan the hors was laus, he gynneth gon
Toward the fen, ther wilde mares renne,
And forth with “wehee,” thurgh thikke and thurgh thenne.

More relevant to the 17th-century game, we find in the play The Coxcombe (performed c. 1610, and first published in 1647):B[102]

Vio[la]. Y’are so gentle people to my seeming, that by my truth I could live with you.

Tin[cker]. Could you so? a pretty young round wench, well bloudded, I am for her, theeves.

Dor[othy]. But by this I am not, coole your Codpiece, Rogue, or Ile clap a spell upon’t, shall take your edge off with a very vengeance.

Tin[cker]. Peace horse-flesh, peace, Ile cast off my Amazon, she has walked too long, and is indeede notorious, sheele fight and scould, and drinke like one of the worthies.

Dor[o]t[hy]. Vds pretiousi.e. “Gods precious”C[89] you young contagious whore must you be ticing? and is your flesh so wrank sir, that two may live upon’t? I am glad to heare your cortallA type of small horse, which often had its tail cut short. grown so lusty; he was dry foundered tother day, wehee my pampered jade of Asia.“Jade” here means an inferior or worn-out horse; “pampered jades of Asia” is a quotation in mockery of Marlowe’s Tamburlaine: “Holla ye pamper’d jades of Asia! / What, can ye draw but twenty miles a-day,[…]” This line is also ridiculed in Shakespeare’s Henry IV (2.4).

… as well as in the play The Vow-Breaker, published 1636:D[70]

Bo[ote]. Miles you came to steale my Neece.

Mi[les]. Oh Lord sir; I came to furnish the hobby-horse.

Bo[ote]. Get into your hobby-horse, gallop, and be gon then, or i’le Morisdance you—Mistris waite you on me. Exit.

Urs[ula]. Farewell good hobby-horse—weehee— Exit.

... or in the book The Rape of the Bride, 1723:E[24]

The Clime’s Produce, is hardy, strong,
Where Boreas Breath does Life prolong.
’Tis thence we owe the best of Breeds;
’Tis thence we have the bravest Steeds,
For Stallion, War-Horse, Coach-Horse, Racer,
Galloper, Trotter, Ambler, Pacer.
There’s none comes near ’em (crede mihi)“believe me”
To neigh, curvett, to prance, or weehee!

... or in the pamphlet The Character of a Coffee-House:F[6]

To discourse him seriously is to read the Ethicks to a Monkey, or make an Oration to Caligula’s horse,Incitatus whence you can only expect a weehee or Jadish spurn; […]

... you get the idea.

In the commentary of Francis Willughby’s Book of Games: a seventeenth-century treatise on sports, games and pastimes (p. 290) it is suggested that the sound is of the “squealing of piglets” (clearly inaccurate, going by the above quotes), and that the game is related to My Sow (Has) Pigged.

The game is possibly the same as the game later recorded as ‘Wizzy, Wizzy, Wee’ in Shropshire, which is also said to be the same as My Sow (Has) Pigged.G[p. 527]

In one case the game My Lady’s Hole is identified as equivalent to Whehee.

References

  1. , , and (, originally published 2003). ⁨Francis Willughby’s Book of Games: a seventeenth-century treatise on sports, games and pastimes⁩. Routledge⁩: London & New York. ISBN: 978-1-85928-460-5.

  2. and (). ⁨⁩. London.

  3. (). ⁨⁩ [archived]. PhD thesis, University of Birmingham⁩.

  4. (). ⁨⁩. London.

  5. Anonymous (). ⁨⁩. London.

  6. Anonymous (). ⁨⁩. London.

  7. and (). ⁨⁩ volume 3. Trübner & Co⁩: London.

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