Thursday, June 01, 2006


There are many interests I didn't follow after high school. I would have made a good linguist, a good etymologist, maybe even a good Marine, as I mentioned earlier. And I would have loved to study folk songs, poems and charms.

One of my favorite things to do in libraries when I was about 10 was to find different copies of "The Fox Went Out on a Chilly Night" and see how they identified the woman in the song. Just googling it now, I've found five: Old Mother Flipper-Flopper, Flipper-Flapper, Wiggle-Waggle, Slipper-Slopper, Twiddle-Twaddle. One example just says "Old mother, then she sat up her bed."

The differences fascinated me. How did they change? Why did they change? What was the original? I compared versions of fairy tales and the Bible. I was blown away when I learned that some children played "Duck, Duck, Grey Duck" when my version had a goose in it.

And then, of course, there were the rhymes that kids say. Sometimes for jumping rope, sometimes to taunt, and sometimes just to provide an outlet for the nervous energy kids have trouble expressing.

John recited one this morning that he had learned at school:

A, B, C, that's the way (uh huh, uh huh) I like it, I like it.
Peace, punch, Captain Crunch.
Break down walls and waterfalls.
You got your wish, I got mine,
You think you got it all, but you DON'T!
Sooooooooo, POOF with that attitude, girlfriend!

Googling "peace punch Captain Crunch" shows that this version may be missing some lines after it (which is just fine, because one of them is "wind me up and do my thing." Yipe!

Here are four from when I was growing up.
Going on a treasure hunt, X marks the spot.
Two straight lines and a question dot.
A pinch, a squeeze, a little golden breeze,
Blood rushing down! Blood rushing down! Blood rushing down! Blood rushing down! Blood rushing down! Blood rushing down! Blood rushing down! Blood rushing down!
Who got you?

And its alternative:
Criss, cross, applesauce, spider up your back.
Cool breeze, light squeeze, now you've got the shivers.

Both of those involved tracing on a person's back, as well as blowing on her neck and squeezing or tickling.

Firecracker, firecracker, boom boom boom.
Firecracker, firecracker, boom boom boom.
Boys got the muscles, teachers got the brains,
Girls got the sexy legs, and we won the game!


Then there was this one, which involved offensive motions:
Chinese, Japanese, little knees, look at these!


Did you do any of these? Counting charms (bubblegum, bubblegum in a dish; engine, engine number nine) and weird songs (Hello operator) don't count.


  1. We had mean rhymes about just about any color someone was wearing:

    Red, red, you peed in your bed.

    Green, green, you're mean.

    Blue, blue, you've got the flu, nobody wants to play with you.

    Black, black, you crashed your mom's new cadillac.

    Yellow, yellow, you peed on your pillow.

    Pink, pink, you stink.

    (You were safe with brown, orange, or purple.)

    The funny thing is how much these stupid rhymes affected me at the time -- it was completely humiliating to have someone say, "Red, red, you peed in your bed," even though now it makes me laugh to think I could have taken it seriously and gotten upset about it.

  2. I got called "Catherine Bathroom" once. I should have laughed in her face; I mean, that doesn't even RHYME. But instead I just glared at her. Not that I've held on to that bad feeling for 25 years or anything.

  3. Laughing my ass off. You're right, you should have just glared at her and said, "Faulty rhyme scheme, loser."

    Anything having to do with the bathroom is a pretty serious insult in elementary school, though, so I can see how Catherine Bathroom would have rankled.

  4. We should have been all, "POOF with that attitude, girlfriend!"

  5. Jump rope rhymes (loosely speaking)
    You had to run into the spinning rope and then the chant began. At the end, you ran out of the rope and the next person came in.

    Teddy bear, teddy bear turn around.
    Teddy bear, teddy bear touch the ground.
    Teddy bear, teddy bear, do a high kick.
    Teddy bear, teddy bear, do the splits.
    Teddy bear, teddy bear, go upstairs.
    Teddy bear, teddy bear, say your prayers.

    This one you didn't have to run into the spinning rope.
    Dressed in yella,
    Went downstairs
    To kiss her fella.
    How many kisses did they kiss?
    1,2,3,4,etc. (until you got tangled in the rope.)

  6. We did the Firecracker one, and the Cinderella one--which the Boy came home with from school about a month ago, thank you very much. Poor Cinderella, still stuck with that danged snake.

    There was one we sang when we had to walk matched your steps to it, with a skip at the end to get back to the start:
    LEFT, LEFT, I LEFT my wife and my 48 children without any gingerbread LEFT.
    RIGHT, RIGHT, do you think I was RIGHT?
    Skip, by jingle, skip.

  7. Oh, see, I didn't even read through the whole version that your mom posted...the version we sang (and the same one the Boy brought home):
    Cinderella, dressed in yella,
    Went upstairs to kiss a fella.
    Made a mistake and kissed a snake,
    How many doctors did it take?

    Then you count.

  8. Psycho, we had Cinderella kissing the snake, too. Ma Krup's version is kinder and gentler... Cinderella gets the guy without needing any medical attention.

    Another favorite from elementary school, after your team won at kickball (or anything else):

    We won, we won, we shot the BB gun. You lost, you lost, you ate the applesauce.

    (Not sure why eating applesauce was an insult, but it felt downright SHAMEFUL when the other team chanted this rhyme at you.)

  9. We did the snake version as well.

    I've been poking around online and it seems that some version of the "breaking walls/waterfalls" thing that John was doing showed up in that great cinematic event, "Child Star 2." I've also found several versions of it on a web site devoted to African-American folk rhymes, chants, taunts, songs and cheers. Very interesting.

  10. Tuh. Applesauce-eater. Tuh. Fuh.

  11. funnie2:08 PM

    we did criss cross applesauce
    and firecracker
    and Chinese/Japanese
    and teddybear
    and Cinderella

    Also: down-down-baby

    and I think bunny foo-foo counts a little, since it had all the elaborate hand gestures

    and there was a very elaborate ritual with "gimme five, up high, down low, you're too slow," wherein you'd have to make up different stuff that rhymed in the middle to throw them off the upcoming down-low

    oh, also for jumprope:

    (underhand skip)
    (overhand skip)
    I like coffee
    I like tea
    I like the boys
    And they like me
    Yes, no, maybe so
    Yes, no, maybe so
    (and so on until you miss)

    Catherine Bathroom is actually kind of genius. Poet of the future.

    I got "I'd rather be dead than red in the head" and "can't stop the coppertop."

  12. This stuff fascinates me too!

    The teddy bear one is familiar to me as written. And the version of Cinderella that I know definitely had the snake. :D

    My family's version of Criss Cross is a little bit different from the one you posted:

    Criss Cross, applesauce
    Little spiders crawling up your back!
    Tight squeeze...
    Cool breeze...
    Now you've got the chill-ees!

    When I was in school in England for a year, I learned a skipping rope rhyme, designed for a jump in-jump out type group session:

    Keep the kettle boiling
    Whistle and you're out!

    That one always stuck with me - rhythmic and very English.

    I was looking for one of the weirder American clapping rhymes that I remember, and I found an old site with some good info. This is my version of the rhyme I was looking for:

    Winston tastes great, just like a
    Ciiiiigarette should, just like a
    Ooh aah, wanna piece of pie
    Pie too sweet, wanna piece of meat
    Meat too tough, wanna ride the bus
    Bus to full, wanna ride a bull
    Bull too fat, want my money back
    Money too green, wanna jelly bean
    Jelly bean too red, wanna go to bed
    Close your eyes and count to ten
    If you miss, start all over again
    1, 2, 3...

  13. Anonymous5:41 PM

    let's see -- lot's of 'picking who's IT' rhymes for freeze tag:

    ink a dink
    a bottle of ink
    we're all out but

    is the only one i can remember off the top of my head. kind of weird considering nobody's used bottles of ink in at least 75 years.

    we did the applesauce rhyme, too.

    remember this one?

    U - G - L - Y!
    you ain't got no alibi!
    you ugly, yeah yeah you ugly!

    M - U - S - T - Y!
    you don't use no soft & dry!
    you musty, yeah yeah you musty!

    D - A - D - D - Y!
    you don't even know that guy!
    your daddy, you ain't got no daddy!

    i think they went on and on, getting progressively more inappropriate.

    and what was that long thing about triscuits? i think it's in BIG. was that the 'down down baby' one?

  14. We did a lot of these in school. And most of them were racist, and/or quite dirty.

    (I sing, "Old Mother Flipper Fla/opper," in an unclear fashion because neither version appeals to me. I'm thinking of changing it to something more personal, like Ellie's last names or something.)

  15. This weekend the Boy and his friend were singing one I hadn't heard before:
    Don't wanna be a chicken, don't wanna be a duck
    So I shake my butt!


  16. John came home with a new one I hadn't heard:

    Chinese checkers, I can call my mommy.
    Chinese checkers, I can walk the doggie.
    Chinese checkers, I can eat salami.
    Chinese checkers, whoops, I'm sorry.
    You better be sorry!
    I'm not sorry.
    Inka dinka rinka dink, a boy/girl likes you.

  17. KissesAndHugs4:40 PM

    Haha, yeah, a lot of these are really farmiliar. We did the 'Going on a Treasure Hunt' a little differently, though.

    Version 1: Going on a treasure hunt,
    X marks the spot,
    Four huge boulders,
    One tiny dot,
    Spiders crawling up your back,
    Blood rushing down your back,
    Slight Breeze,
    Tight squeeze,
    Now you've got the chillies.

    Version 2:
    'Round the world in 80 days,
    X marks the spot.
    dot, dot, dot,
    dash, dash, dash,
    and a big question mark,
    STABBED in the back,
    Blood rushes up,
    blood rushes down,
    STABBED in the back,
    spiders crawl up,
    spiders crawl down,
    Break an egg on your head,
    and the yolk goes dooooooown,
    slight breeze,
    tight squeeze,
    Now you've got the chiiiiillies!

  18. Anonymous5:30 PM

    I also did the Cinderella one and the teddy bear one, but I also remember the one Krupskaya mentioned about chinese checkers; however the one I did went like this:

    Chinese checkers, you can do karate
    Chinese checkers, you can do biology
    Chinese checkers, oops I'm sorry
    You better be sorry
    Cause I'm not sorry

    Itsy bitsy soda pop
    Itsy bitsy do
    Itsy bitsy soda pop cause I love you!

    This was in kindergarten and I still remember it very clearly :)

  19. Anonymous12:41 PM

    i found this when I was trying in vane to find the words to the firecracker cheer. it was one I used to do 30 years ago as a little kid and i heard it this morning from a pee-wee league football cheer squad. It took me back!

    I know we always did the clapping games and one of the ones we did all the time was Ms. Susie. I can't remember how it all goes now but i remember her going to hell...o operator, give me number nine. and something about her big fat as...k me no more questions, tell me no more lies, the boys are in the bathroom zipping down their flies are in the garden, bees are in the park, Ms. Susie and her boyfriend are kissing in the d-a-r-k, d-a-r-k, dark, dark, dark!

  20. Anonymous2:43 PM

    we did this on:

    icecream soda cherry on top
    how many boyfriends do you got
    then you count till you mess up

  21. Anonymous4:06 AM

    Poof be gone, your breath is so strong! Wait come back, I gotta tic tac!