childhood rhymes

Wilson Gray hwgray at EARTHLINK.NET
Sat Jul 31 20:22:14 UTC 2004

On Jul 31, 2004, at 11:32 AM, 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: childhood rhymes
> -----------------------------------------------------------------------
> --------
> I only know the 4-and-20 rhyme as the ending of "One, two, buckle my
> shoe,"
> which we chanted while trying to bounce a ball non-stop without
> grasping it
> or losing it (I can still do it!).  Let's see if I can remember it:
> One, two, buckle my shoe
> Three, four, shut the door
> Five, six, pick up sticks
> Seven, eight, lay them straight
> Nine, ten, a big fat hen
> Eleven, twelve, dig and delve [incomprehensible to us kids, of course]
> Thirteen, fourteen, maids a-courting
> Fifteen, sixteen, maids a-kissing
> Seventeen, eighteen, maids a-waiting
> Nineteen, twenty, the larder is empty
> Twenty-one, twenty-two, my old shoe,
> dressed in blue, died last night at half-past two
> Twenty-three, twenty-four, last night at half-past four
> twenty-four burglars came up to my door;
> I opened the door and let them in;
> I knocked them down with a rolling pin!

*Very* interesting! I know "One, Two" only as literature. All the
published versions that I've had read to me or have read for myself
have ended at 20.

Speaking of girls' games, is anyone else familiar with "One, Two,
Three, O'Leary" and/or "Heel, Toe, Stomp, and Over"? These are the same
game. "One, Two" is the white version and "Heel, Toe" is the black
version. Back in the '40's in Saint Louis, this game was played by
pre-adolescent girls. While playing the game, the girls chanted the
words sing-song style, with both whites and blacks using the same tune.
The game itself involved bouncing a ball, usually a tennis ball, in
time with each syllable of the chant while, at the same time,
performing the foot-and-leg actions described in the black version. At
"O'Leary/and Over," the girl swung the leg of her choice over the ball
as it rebounded from the sidewalk, repeating ad infinitum. Girls
usually used this as a time-killer when they had nothing else to do. As
a consequence, I can't remember ever seeing a girl play this who was
other than expert at it, able to mix and match hands, feet, and legs at
will. The chants had words beyond those supplied. Unfortunately, I was
a pre-adolescent boy at the time and the game was as girly as hopscotch
or jacks. So I paid no heed to the words beyond the opening line. "Oh.
A girl." Mind goes blank, turns to thoughts of more boyly pursuits.

-Wilson Gray

> At 11:47 PM 7/30/2004 -0400, you wrote:
>>> 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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