The Dozens

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Thu Jul 13 18:30:29 UTC 2006

Page, as for the limericks, I doubt their communal composition was popular among working-class African-Americans a century ago, especially in groups of twelve.  Nor do I believe that the line about swimming after troopships much antedates 1945. (Isn't the line usually, "In China they never eat chili"?)

  I've never heard of the dozens being waged in rhyme or according to any rules other than focusing mainly on yo' mama.


"hpst at" <hpst at EARTHLINK.NET> wrote:
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Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: "hpst at"
Subject: Re: The Dozens


Not the dozens but one of the many versions of the chorus to The Limerick
Song goes:

I yi yi yi.
Your mother swims after troop ships.
So sing me another verse that's worse than the other verse
And waltz me around again, Willy.

or alternatively:

Waltz me around by my willy.

"Roll Me Over in the Clover." is another one of those songs like "The
Quartermaster's Store" which are wonderful to sing in a group since you can
make up verses as you go along and in my experience we would all sing the
chorus and then someone or other would hold up their hand and either sing a
verse or limerick which they had heard before or make one up on the spur of
the moment.

They are traditional only in the sense that it was traditional that we
would all make up verses as the song progressed, and I doubt that any of us
remembered them more than a day or two after we invented them.

If I had a buck for every limerick verse I made up off the top of my head
to any of those songs I would be rich.

Sounds like the dozens to me.

Page Stephens

> [Original Message]
> From: Jonathan Lighter
> To:
> Date: 7/13/2006 10:44:28 AM
> Subject: Re: [ADS-L] The Dozens
> Dollard's "rhyme" is clearly akin to bawdy songs such as "Roll Me Over in
the Clover." Whether the rhyme was ever called "The Dozens" and, if so,
whether it lent its name to an older practice, seems unknowable at the
moment. Dollard, nearly seventy years ago, was obviously not persuaded.
> Is there additional documentary evidence that Dollard's rhyme, or
something like it, was ever widely "used in playing the Dozens"?
> JL
> Benjamin Zimmer wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> Sender: American Dialect Society
> Poster: Benjamin Zimmer
> Subject: Re: The Dozens
> On 7/13/06, Douglas G. Wilson wrote:
> >
> > >OED assumes some unstated relationship to the ordinary "dozen," which
> > >strongly doubts; no reference I'm aware of claims that the insults ever
> > >came in groups of twelve, for example.
> >
> > DARE records a 1977 passage by Smitherman in which it is
> > asserted/speculated that "the original verses involved twelve sex acts
> > [committed with 'yo momma']". Doesn't sound nearly as ridiculous as the
> > atrocious mutilated-slaves story, but I'd like to see some evidence.
> I believe Smitherman takes that speculation from John Dollard's
> classic 1939 article, "The Dozens: Dialectic of Insult" (_American
> Imago_ 1:3-25). Dollard writes:
> -----
> The origin of the title, "the Dozens," is not known to me. What is
> known is that there is an obscene rhyme which is used in playing the
> Dozens which has twelve unitis in it. It goes in part as follows:
> "I --- your mammy one;
> She said, 'You've just begun.'
> .......
> I --- her seven;
> She said, 'I believe I'm in Heaven.'
> .......
> I --- her twelve;
> She swore she was in Hell."
> -----
> Dollard's piece is reprinted in _Mother Wit from the Laughing Barrel_,
> Alan Dundes, ed.:
> That book also reprints the 1962 article "Playing the Dozens" by Roger
> D. Abrahams (originally in _J. Am. Folklore_ 75:209-20). Abrahams has
> a footnote where he discusses some other theories about "the dozens"
> -- one involves dice, another involves teeth.
> --Ben Zimmer
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