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Cornhole, bean bag toss or bags: What's the name of this tailgating pastime?

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(It’s cornhole)

There is a game that is often played when groups of football-loving (or any sports-loving) people gather together. It is played outdoors, often at tailgates. It involves four players, two boards, and a bunch of bean bags.

My colleague Richard Johnson describes the rules like this:

For the uninitiated: You play in two teams of two, with a player from each team flanking each board. You alternate shots, and then the opposite pair returns fire. You try to cancel out the other team’s bean bags. If you land three bags on and the opponent lands two, than you earn one point. Making it through the hole is automatically three points in most common scoring systems, and you play to 21.

Yes, it’s cornhole!

Not everyone calls it that, however. Much like the classic basketball game Knockout (or Lightning or Bump), different regions call this yard game different things. I surveyed more than 1,000 people to see what they thought.

Take a look:

View Fun bag toss game! in a full screen map

As we suspected, cornhole/corn hole is the winner, almost overwhelmingly.

However there was a small contingent that calls the game “bags.” Fair. The “bags” grouping is mostly found in the upper Midwest, and go figure -— that’s the same place where they call Knockout, “Lightning.”

Here’s the actual breakdown in chart form:

Other answers included the more generic “bean bag toss” and “Baggo,” which apparently used to be a manufacturer’s name for this game.

Some respondents said “other.” Where and what were they?

  • “Cruthole” (sounds dirty but OK)
  • “Bags AND cornhole” (inclusive!)
  • “Mouth Breather Horseshoes” (That isn’t very nice, sir or madam.)
  • “The baby game baby tailgaters play instead of Washers” (my understanding of washers is you have to throw an actual washer, which could be much harder than cornhole.)
  • “Dick Dick Ball” (??? no balls involved here, folks)

I did not get anyone who called the game Dummy Boards, doghouse, beans, or sacks. Clearly, my internet research led me astray — or perhaps people were just too embarrassed to admit they called a family-friendly yard game “sacks.”

So where does the popular name cornhole come from?

Materials. The bags used to be filled with dried corn kernels, not beans, so in some older versions, the game was really not bean bag toss. It was tossing a corn bag into a hole, aka cornhole.

Whatever you call it, you’ve got plenty of time before tailgating season to practice at whatever graduation parties or Memorial Day festivities you may attend. So have fun and remember — never trust anyone who throws the bags overhand.