ROCK, PAPER, SCISSORS
The origin of the classic game of rock, paper, scissors has been the subject of much debate. It is possible that a version of the game was played by Roman soldiers using water, fire, wood (water extinguishes fire, which burns wood, which floats on water). However, no record of the hand signals has been discovered. The Japanese call the game jan-ken-poh or janken, and they use it as a method to choose the dealer in card games, who will serve first at tennis, and so on. (Hasami is scissors; kami is paper; ishi is stone.) Some version of the game employ four possible hand shapes. For example, French schoolchildren nowadays play with rock (caillou), well (puits), paper (feuille), and scissors (sciseaux). Here, scissors fall down the well, which is covered by apper, which is cut by scissors, which are smashed by rock, which also falls down the well. And there is an ancient Abyssinian variation with eight signs: needle, sword, scissors, hammer, imperial razor, sea, altar, and the sky.
Hector Berlioz (1803-69)