No subject

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Sat Jul 31 04:19:15 UTC 2004

FWIW, I "collected" a version of the "24 robbers" rhyme from a fellow grad student in
1974. He was from the piedmont of North Carolina.  I will have to dig the rest of the (maybe six line) rhyme out from its hiding place, but it started this way:

'Tweren't last night, 'twas the night before;
Four-and-twenty robbers came knockin' at the door.

I'm quite sure it had nothing to do with what I grew up calling "hide-and-seek."

Wilson Gray <hwgray at EARTHLINK.NET> wrote:
---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: Wilson Gray

> Wilson,
> When the game was over did you call ally ally outs in free like we did
> in
> southern Illinois?
> Page Stephens

Strange as it may seem, this is not a part of
hide-and-seek/hide-and-go-seek [I myself say "hide-and-seek," but I've
heard "hide-and-go-seek" from so many different people in so many
different places and read it in so many different kinds of publications
that I can't consider the "go" version to be "wrong," though, of
course, I'd like to;-)] as I know it. The game simply continued till
the last person out was caught or got home free. Some time in the
distant past - in the '60's, perhaps? - I read an article about the
derivation of "olly olly ox in free" from "all the, all the outs in
free." That was the first that I had ever heard of it.

Now, I'm going to return your serve. Did "it" chant a sing-song rhyme
or merely count up to a certain number? The only place that I've lived
where the chant is used is in East Texas. However, I have irrefutable
evidence that it is used elsewhere in the South, almost certainly in
Memphis, TN, though I can't verify this.

The chant is:

Last night, night before
Twenty-four robbers at my door
I opened the door
I let them in
I hit them in the head with a rolling pin
All hid?

The evidence is:

In 1961, a band calling itself The Mar-Keys, like the Bar-Kays a
spin-off from the much-better-known band, Booker T and the M.G.'s, was
formed in Memphis, TN. Their first and only hit was an instrumental
entitled "Last Night." If you turned this record over, like, to the
flip side, there you found another instrumental, entitled, "Night
Before"! Coincidence? I think not.

-Wilson Gray

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