Has Technology Taken the Fun Out of Ding-Dong Ditch?

I’m guessing most of us have done it.

Ran up to a neighbor’s house, either knocked on the door or rang the bell, and then ran away before anyone answered the door.

In the U.S. it’s known as ding-dong ditch, and it’s probably one of the first pranks kids learned while growing up.

It’s a fairly innocent gag, and most people take it for what it is, a bunch of kids being stupid and having fun. (I know there have been instances of kids being threatened by guns, and even one case of some teens being killed as a result of such a prank, but fortunately, such incidents are few and far between).

But nowadays, I wonder if the fun is taken out of it because so many people have doorbell cameras that will either (a) discourage kids from ding-dong ditching a house that they know has a camera or (b) if the kids aren’t aware of such a camera in place, they are caught red-handed. Being caught on film probably leads to some form of reprimand from the kids’ parents, but it’s hard to be too tough on your kid when you were guilty of doing the same thing at their age.

So it was nice to read a couple of stories that during the pandemic, ding-dong ditching was actually making somewhat of a comeback.

A WSJ story from back in May noted that covid-19 was fueling a comeback of the game across the U.S., giving grown-ups a much-needed dose of nostalgia and mischief. The latest version includes leaving a treat before running away, lending a kinder twist on the prank.

One of the popular treats to leave was the snack, Ding Dongs. Hostess Brands Inc. says in the four weeks ended April 18 sales of Ding Dongs have outpaced the company’s overall sales growth rate. “We’ve been seeing retail sales velocities of Ding Dongs that are several, several multiples above Hostess’s snacking averages,” says Chad Lusk, the company’s chief marketing officer. “It is showing up in our purchase data that people are utilizing Ding Dongs as a way to reimagine this version of an old childhood game.”

Another person used the prank as a way to boos flower sales. Flower-delivery sales have increased 75% since Maya Boettcher, 41, promised on March 16 on her shop’s Instagram page that all deliveries would be made ding-dong-ditch style. (Before the pandemic, most of her business was wedding arrangements.) After placing an order, customers frequently call to confirm she will stick to her delivery-method promise, says Ms. Boettcher, owner of Wildflower boutique in Des Moines.

Since I am a fan of pranks, I love seeing this renewed use of ding-dong ditching. And while I was reading about this, I learned that such a prank is not exclusive to just the U.S., and that it goes by different names around the world. In fact, it seems to date back to 19th century England.

Here’s an excerpt from Wikipedia with some of those names:

  • Knock Out Ginger (South Wales)
  • Knock a door run (away) (northern England)
  • Ding dong ditch, Nicky nicky nine doors (United States, Canada)
  • Chicky melly chap-door-run, chappy (Scotland)
  • Knock and run
  • Knick knack (Ireland)
  • Cherry knocking (United Kingdom, late 20th century)
  • Ring and run (United States)
  • Belletje trekken (Netherlands), belleke trek (Flanders)
  • Knock and nash (Cumbria, United Kingdom)
  • Knick Knocking (Australia)
  • Tok-tokkie (South Africa)
  • Sonne-Décriss (Québec)
  • Rín-Rín-Raja (Chile)
  • Bell-Twei (Bell means ‘Ding’ and Twei means ‘run’ in Korean) (South Korea)

And there was even an old poem:

Ginger, Ginger broke a winder
Hit the winda – crack!
The baker came out to give ‘im a clout
And landed on his back.

Hopefully, Ginger and the baker have learned to tone it down since then…

*image from Digital Camera World

78 thoughts on “Has Technology Taken the Fun Out of Ding-Dong Ditch?

  1. As a kid, here in western Canada, it was ‘Knock on Door Ginger’.
    At our house today, I call it ‘Amazon Delivery!’ (They ring the doorbell twice and often have driven off before we get to the door.)

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Amazon apparently has well over a million active sellers in it’s marketplace (either as first-party wholesalers or third-party direct-to-customer sellers.) Many small businesses are thriving because they can use Amazon rather than having to set up their own on-line sales and distribution system.
        For us, the ability to live in a rural area, keep our gas consumption low and limit our virus contact has been because of Amazon and other online/home delivery services!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Our UPS driver does it. He leaves a parcel on our porch, rings the doorbell, then runs for his truck.
    I’m pretty sure I ding-dong-ditched a few times when I was a kid. But I never left a Hostess’ Ding-Dong. That’s a nice touch. But I did TP a house, and left real toilet paper. Those were the good ol’ days.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I had my car tp’ed by friends, back when I was 20ish. I had driven to their house and they took me to the airport. Got back to their house and surprise! Every inch was covered, inside and out!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. How fun! Before I got to the middle of this post, I was thinking, “hotels are still fair game” lol. But this is definitely a nice touch, and I’m glad people are playing along…although now I want some Hostess snacks lol

    Liked by 1 person

  4. When I was a kid, one of the traditions we sometimes took part in was surrounding May Day. I hadn’t thought of this for decades until I read your post. The way the tradition worked is you brought a treat to the house of someone you had a crush on. You’d ring the bell and get out of Dodge in a hurry, leaving your sweetie wondering who was leaving her a treat. The girl was supposed to chase after and kiss you. Needless to say, some of us didn’t run away that fast.😎

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The leaving of a small treat seems to turn this originally antagonistic prank into a small touch of kindness without eliminating the petulant fun of misbehaving. This reminded me of a childhood memory of my own that seems to tie together this age old prank and the tradition Pete mentioned in his comment. One middle of the night long ago, as my friends and I were sleeping outside, we stayed up and roamed the neighborhood for hours in the cover of darkness. I remember leaving a bag of M&Ms in the mailbox at the house of a girl I liked. I am not sure how she was supposed to know they were for her or who they might have come from, but at the time it seemed like a romantic thing to do. Of course, in reality, the mailman probably ate them during his afternoon rounds, but it is the thought that counts, right?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. that’s a great story; I can imagine you were probably waiting a few days to see if the girl would ever acknowledge your gift. Hopefully you found another way to get her attention!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. my wife’s pre-k class leave gifts outside of the other pre-k classes while the one class is outside, with a ghost hanging on the door saying “You’ve been booed.”
      Seems like another form of ding-dong ditch…


  6. It was known as Knock Down Ginger in the part of England in which I grew up, and we all did it! It went with firing a toy cap gun into the mouthpiece of the public phone box when the operator answered – a childhood rite of passage. Back when I was a kid our gun laws weren’t as sane as they are now, but we never thought we could get murdered for doing it – only verbally!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I never heard about firing a toy cap gun into a phone, I’m sure that would get the operator’s attention! And yes, I felt completely safe ding-dong ditching when I was little…

      Liked by 1 person

  7. What a cute twist! But unfortunately I never play this prank or a lot of kids in the same kind of neighborhood I grew up with. No one had doorbells and we just walk right in like we own each other’s houses 😂

    Liked by 1 person

      1. It was. Everyone knows everyone. And time seem to be standing still there. We moved when I was 11, and I didn’t return until I was 28. But the moment I said my nickname, everyone know who I was and I’m embarrassed to say I only remember a few 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Technology has taken away some of the fun from yesteryear. Some innocent and fun shenanigans never hurt much. People used to place May baskets on May 1 (May Day) on doorsteps along with a doorbell ring.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Lol Jim, not as far as I know. I looked up ‘urban legends’ and all it is it’s a Canadian term for knocking on people’s doors and running away before they can answer, lol.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. It is Knock Down Ginger on my side of London as well…My hubby and his friends had the best idea as it was door knockers not bells when we grew up… they would attach wool or something to all the knockers down the street ..opposite to opposite and then wait for a car come through so all the knockers would drop at once…

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