In the wrong circles, the Rock Paper Scissors game is known by another name called “roshambo”, “rochambeau” or “ro sham bo”. This question is quite complex like why paper beats rock.
So, Why do people call Rock Paper Scissors Roshambo? In the United States, the term is commonly used on the West Coast, especially in northern California. According to some legends of the game, the term “Roshambo” dates back to the Comte de Rochambeau, a French nobleman who fought against the British during the Revolutionary War (and gets a shoutout in a hit musical Hamilton). His name was used as a codeword at the battle of Yorktown, where he was a commander of the French troops.
However, “there’s no historical proof tracing the name back the Revolutionary Times. The first ever known use of “roshambo” as a synonym for the Rock Paper Scissors game was found in a book from 1936 called The Handbook for Recreation Leaders, published in Oakland, California. It was spelled “ro-sham-beau” in the book, leading to even more confusion.
At the World Rock Paper Scissors Association, we find no evidence that the Comte de Rochambeau had no involvement with the game of Rock Paper Scissors. Looking at the History of Rock Paper Scissors, versions of the game originated in China as far back as 1600 before spreading to Japan, where it was called “Jon Ken Pon.” The Japanese game eventually spread to Europe in the Early 20th Century and made it to the United States by the 1930s.
Incorrect Stories for the History of Roshambo
One idea tossed around for the origin of Roshambo is because the SanFransico area has long been home to a large population of the East Asian Immigrants. It’s likely that Bay Area kids early 1930s on who were playing Rock Paper Scissors or “Jon Ken Pon” decided to Americanize the name. While there is little historical evidence to trace the change, perhaps with the help of the Revolutionary War knowledge they picked up in history class and transforming it into a word with similar cadence “roshambo”.
Who is Jean Baptiste Rochambeau?
Jean Baptiste was none other than the French General who was sent to command an army in support of George Washington during the American Revolution. Why the game of Rock Paper Scissors became associated with the “Count of Rochambeau” is still a bit of a mystery, but it certainly calls into question the means by which Washington secured Cornwallis’s surrender in Yorktown. Was it settled over a game of Rock Paper Scissors?
We are also trying to figure out what is the most popular variation of the name. Is it Roshambo, Rochambo, Rochambeau or Ro Sham Bo? It’s all too confusing to us and we will stick to Rock Paper Scissors.