A children's punning/rhyming game

Wilson Gray hwgray at EARTHLINK.NET
Sat Jul 24 19:45:37 UTC 2004

On Jul 24, 2004, at 1:52 PM, Beverly Flanigan wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Beverly Flanigan <flanigan at OHIO.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: A children's punning/rhyming game
> -----------------------------------------------------------------------
> --------
> My mother (white, born in MN in 1906) chanted a similar rhyme to us
> when we
> annoyed her with constant questions, but the second line was
> different.  For the life of me, I can't recall what it was though, and
> none
> of the alternatives offered ring a bell. It sounds like a turn of the
> (old)
> century rhyme that has largely faded, maybe because the second line
> doesn't
> make any sense.  But what's a front-off game?

In Saint Louis, to front someone off is to subject someone to ridicule
by using verbal trickeration. In this case, when you ask someone his
name and he replies with a nonsense rhyme to which you can have no
reply (Ask me again and I'll tell you the same!) when you expect to
hear the person's name, you're kinda left standing there with your
brain hanging out. It's even worse when the interchange is spontaneous
between adults and not part of a standardized hazing ritual between
little kids. Consider the following exchange between two women.

Darlene is surrounded by about four guys or so, each of whom is hanging
on her every syllable. Peggy, walking past, is brought up short by
this, to her, disgusting
scene, given that she, in her own opinion, is far more attractive than
Darlene. Yet, the guys, acting as though mesmerized by Darlene, are
paying her no attention at all. Finally, the whole scene just becomes
too much for her and Peggy simply must speak out: "Darlene, why don't
you shut up?! Your mouth is too big!" To which Darlene calmly replies,
"Well, at least my mouth is not as big as that hole you're standing
over." Peggy, caught off guard, looks down and about her in an attempt
to find the hole. Then, she understands. Darlene has totally fronted
her off, before God and everybody else! And, even more embarrassing for
her, by looking around for the hole, Peggy has demonstrated that,
though the front-off is aimed specifically at her physical womanhood
and with specific reference to her external genitalia, she is the only
person within earshot not to get that point immediately.

Peggy was a close friend of mine, but I had to give Darlene her props.
She kicked ass with that one. She really knew how to hurt a woman where
it really hurts.

Hope this helps!

-Wilson Gray

> At 10:30 PM 7/23/2004 -0400, you wrote:
>> On my very first day in the first grade 1942 in Saint Louis, I was
>> victimized by the following word game:
>> Q. What's your name?
>> A. Putting and ta'en!
>>      Ask me again
>>     And I'll tell you the same.
>> This struck me as so hip that I couldn't wait to get home and tell my
>> mother about. Unfortunately, she, born in Longview, TX, in 1914, was
>> not impressed, since kids were already running this game on one
>> another
>> when she was a child.
>> This little front-off game is so popular and well-known among black
>> children that it was re-written as a rhythm-&-blues dance song for
>> adults that was famous for fifteen minutes on black-oriented AM radio
>> back in the 'Sixties.
>> So far, I haven't met any white people to whom this is familiar.
>> Ordinarily, I'd conclude that this game is only a black thing.
>> However,
>> over the years, I've found it in nursery-rhyme collections directed
>> toward a white audience. In fact, had I not, I wouldn't know how to
>> write it out the first line of the answer, since what I've always
>> heard
>> sounds something like this:
>> Q. Whutcho name?/whussho name?
>> A. Putnin tane!
>>      Ass/ax me agin,
>>     I teh yuh dih same.
>> Anyway, are any of y'all white folk out yonder familiar with this?
>> -Wilson Gray

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