USC Digital Folklore Archives / Musical
Game
Gestures
Musical

Cinderella Jump rope rhyme

Cinderella Jump rope rhyme

 

Text

Cinderella dressed in yella

Went downstairs to kiss a fella

By mistake she kissed a snake

How many doctors did it take

One!

Two!

Three!

(Etc.)

 

Background

The informant use to sing this song while playing double dutch jump rope with her girl friends at recess. She said she originally learned the song from her mother but her friends had already heard of it before she brought it up to them. They would sing the song and then count how many times the girl playing double dutch could jump over the rope.

 

Context

The informant is a student in Southern California and grew up Laguna Beach where she attended a public school in a nice area.

 

Thoughts

At first glance, this song seems like a catchy jingle to play jump rope to, but this rhyme has  much deeper historical, misogynistic roots. The jingle was originally created to discourage young girls from being sexually promiscuous. Because Cinderella “kissed a fella,” she was attacked by a snake. Additionally, the song embodies this underlying concept that people may not always be what they seem. When Cinderella thought she was kissing a man, she was actually kissing a snake. Snakes are typically representative of a deceptive trickster in folklore. In the Judeo-Christian faith, for example, the snake tricked Eve into eating the forbidden fruit.

 

Game
Musical

Lemonade Crunchy Ice

Text

Lemonade

Crunchy ice

Squeeze it once

Squeeze it twice

Lemonade

Crunchy ice

Squeeze it once

Squeeze it twice

Turn around

Touch the ground

Kick your boyfriend out of town

Freeze

 

Background

When the informant was younger she would do it with her close friends as an activity to do at church. She first learned it from her friend when she was about 8 years old. This version is specific to her region (San Diego) and has found that her friends who grew up in different cities do it differently. She says that it kept her entertained enough to want to go back to church and that she may have found church boring otherwise. It also made her interact with other kids at church- formed a little community. She says that the adults at church encouraged the song even though it had nothing to do with religion. She later shared this song with her friends at school.

 

Context

The informant goes to college in Southern California and grew up in the San Diego area where she attended both a Christian private school and church every sunday. She also attended weekly bible study where she learned this song.

 

Thoughts

This song was definitely used as a form of entertainment but it was also used as a way to socialize and form new relationships. The informant used this song as an icebreaker to make new friends. Additionally, knowing this song gave her some sense of being apart of a group because all of her friends also knew the song, and if she wanted to be friends with someone new, she would teach her the song. She also noted that she refused to ever teach the song to boys because she was still at an age when she didn’t like boys. Having a secret song with her girl friends made her feel like she was apart of the superior gender, in a way.

 

For another version of this song, go to: http://funclapping.com/song-list/lemonade-crunchy-ice/

 

Alternate version:

Lemonade, crunchy ice

Beat it once, beat it twice.

Lemonade, crunchy ice

Beat it once, beat it twice.

Turn around, touch the ground, FREEZE.”Lemonade” is a clapping game that can be played traditionally with 2 children or with several kids all together. To play in a group the children will clap three times after these words – lemonade, crunchy ice, beat it once, beat it twice. After that the lines are repeated except you don’t need to clap three times at the end. The game ends by turning around, touching the ground and then freezing. The first one to move is out.

 

Customs
Festival
Folk Dance
Folk speech
Humor
Musical
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Hail, Hail — Happy Birthday Rendition

Text

The following piece was collected from a twenty woman from San Jose, CA. The woman will hereafter be referred to as the “Informant”, and I the “Collector”.

Informant: “My family has a very specific Happy Birthday song.”

Collector: “How so?

Informant: “We have, like, twelve songs we sing. Well, that’s an exaggeration. We have like five one we sing after the original Happy Birthday.”

Collector: “Will you sing it haha?”

Informant: “Haha..umm… okay. So it’s normal Happy Birthday, yada yada, then it’s ‘Stand up and tell us your age’, then it’s ‘For he’s a jolly good fellow’, then you launch into ‘May the dear Lord bless you’. And then it’s everyone’s favorite one, ‘Hail, hail.’”

Collector: “How does that one go?”

Informant: “So there are hand motions too. Every time you sing ‘hail’, you have to throw your hands in the air. And the rest of the time, you’re swinging you arm back and forth.” (Does a motion similar to a yee-haw – bent elbow, fist near the chin, and swing it to and from.)

“Hail, hail the gang’s all here!

What the heck do we care,

What the heck do we care,

Hail, hail the gang’s all here!

What the heck do we care now!”

Context

            The Informant learned the song from her father, who supposedly claims he came up with it. The Informant, however, tells me that she believes it was a school chant the students would cheer at their school’s sports game. Nonetheless, it has been apart of every Happy Birthday song she has every sung at a family gathering. The Informant loves that her family has their own way of singing Happy Birthday. They treat it as a secret of sorts: if you know the song and the motions, you’re part of the inner circle.

Interpretation

            I was thrilled to hear this new rendition of Happy Birthday. While I was aware there were many versions of Happy Birthday, specifically those when you add “cha cha cha” or the one about how old you are, I had never heard this piece before. The added interpretation of the Informant’s belief that it acts as a method of deciphering who is really a part of the group and who is not is an added benefit. This song celebrates the one whose birthday it is while also celebrating the bond and closeness of a people who all know the same secret.

 

Customs
Holidays
Musical
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Posada

Context:

The informant is a 31-year-old Mexican American woman who will be called SA. SA knows of this folklore piece because she participates in it every year with her family. The Main Piece of folklore is told through her own words.

Main Piece:

On Christmas Eve, my family will get together and split into two groups for Posada. Each person in the group has a candle in hand with a protector from falling wax. One group will stand outside the front door of the house, and the other group stands inside the house right behind the front door. The group outside begins to sing the first verse of the song, followed by the group inside that sings the following verse. This pattern continues throughout the entire song, until the end when everyone celebrates that Joseph and Mary have found shelter, and the group outside comes into the house.

Background:

The informant knows of this folklore because she takes part in it every year on Christmas Eve. This was something passed down from elder to elder in the family. It is a part of her religious beliefs as a Catholic. It is a very important part of their culture and their family as it is a tradition that brings the family together.

Notes:

Posada is a Christmas Mexican tradition that revolves around the Catholic religion in which a reenactment is held with family and friends. The reenactment is of the pilgrimage to Bethlehem by Joseph and Mary in search of shelter on Christmas Eve. The reenactment may be different depending on the family and their own traditions. The song that is sung, is often sung in Spanish. The Lyrics are as follows:

En el nombre del cielo, os pido posada, pues no puede andar, mi esposa amada.

Aquí no es meson, sigan adelante, yo no puedo abrir, no sea algún tunante.

No seas inhumano, tenos caridad, que el Dios de los cielos, te lo premiará.

Ya se pueden ir, y no molestar, porque si me enfado, los voy a apalear.

Venimos rendidos, desde Nazaret, yo soy carpintero, de nombre José.

No me importa el nombre, déjenme dormir, pues ya les digo, que no hemos de abrir.

Posada te pide, amado casero, por sólo una noche, la Reina del Cielo.

Pues si es una Reina, quien lo solicita, ¿Cómo es que de noche, anda tan solita?

Mi esposa es María. es Reina del Cielo, y madre va a ser, del Divino Verbo.

¿Eres tu José? ¿Tu esposa es María? Entren, peregrinos, no los conocía.

Dios pague señores, vuestra caridad, y que os colme el cielo, de felicidad.

Dichosa la casa, que abriga este día, a la Virgen Pura, la hermosa María.

Everyone enters:

Entren santos peregrinos, peregrinos, reciban este rincón, no de esta pobre morada, sino de mi corazón.

Esta noche es de alegría, de gusto y de regocijo, porque hospedaremos aquí, a la Madre de Dios Hijo.

 

English Translation:

Pray give us lodging, dear sir, in the name of heaven. All day since morning to travel we’ve given. Mary, my wife, is expecting a child. She must have shelter tonight. Let us in, let us in!

You cannot stop here, I won’t make my house an inn. I do not trust you, your story is thin. You two might rob me and then run away. Find somewhere else you can stay. Go away, go away!

Please show us pity, your heart cannot be so hard. Look at poor Mary, so worn and so tired. We are most poor, but I’ll pay what I can. God will reward you, good man. Let us in, let us in!

You try my patience. I’m tired and must get some rest. I’ve told you nicely, but still you insist. If you don’t go and stop bothering me, I’ll fix you, I guarantee. Go away, go away!

Sir, I must tell you my wife is the queen of heaven, chosen by God to deliver his Son. Jesus is coming to earth on this eve. (Oh heaven, make him believe!) Let us in, let us in!

Joseph, dear Joseph, oh how could I be so blind? Not to know you and the virgin so fine! Enter, blest pilgrims, my house is your own. Praise be to God on his throne! Please come in, please come in!

Everyone enters:

Enter, enter, holy pilgrims, holy pilgrims. Welcome to my humble home. Though ‘tis little I can offer, all I have please call your own.

 

Customs
Festival
Folk Dance
Foodways
Gestures
Humor
Kinesthetic
Material
Musical
Rituals, festivals, holidays

La Guelaguetza

Context

The informant is an acquaintance of my father, and in a previous vacation invited us to watch “La Guelaguetza,” a performance of the many different tribes in Oaxaca and their folk dances. I made some time during my Spring Break to ask him about the festival once more.

 

Interviewer: Back in 2014, you invited my family and I to the festival of “La Guelaguetza” in Oaxaca. Would you be able to tell me about it, and why it’s such a significant festival.

 

Informant: Yes, gladly! For starters, I myself am originally from Oaxaca, and came to Mexico City to pursue my career as a lawyer. However, much of my family is actually native mexican, like many in Oaxaca. I make an effort to go back every July to watch the festival. “La Guelaguetza” is a festival where many different cultures come together to perform their folk dances, because Oaxaca has many different native cultures, not just Zapoteca. The festival spans almost a week full of plays and performances, but the most important part of it all is at the end of the event… In an open theatre, the different groups all perform folk dances, to music unique to each culture, donning their traditional clothes. Most if not all dances are for couples, a man and a woman. Probably the most famous dance is the “hat dance,” but there are many others.

 

(Note: The hat dance involves the man placing his sombrero between him and the woman, with both of them dancing around it in until they meet.)

 

Interviewer: Yeah, I remember the dances being very unique, but what I remember the most is almost getting knocked out by a mezcal pot during the festival. Could you also talk about the food at “La Guelaguetza?”

 

Informant: (laughs) Of course, of course. “Guelaguetza” is actually a Zapoteca word, which roughly translates to “sharing of gifts.” Other than sharing their music and dances, “La Guelaguetza” is also the place where everyone shares their native foods… but not in a buffet or a restaurant. They actually give samples of the foods in the middle of the dance performances.

 

Interviewer: They pass out the food in a very… uhm… unique manner, do they not?

 

Informant: Indeed, it would be extremely complicated and would most definitely interrupt the dance if they tried giving samples to such a huge crowd, so the performers often opt to throw their items into the crowd! Most of the time they’ll bring a type of sweet bread, but you can also expect mole negro, tamales, and yes, even pots of natively brewed mezcal to be thrown your way. “La Guelaguetza” is so significant for Oaxaca because it celebrates all the cultural diversity in the state by bringing us all together through music, dance, and food.

 

A video of “Jarabe Mixteco” (lit. Mixteco Syrup) one of the more well known dances performed at “La Guelaguetza”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ttlol6TZebE

 

Humor
Musical

Miss Susie Song

Piece:

Interviewer: “Do you mind if we go back to that song we were talking about earlier?”

Informant: “Sure.. I will do my best to remember all the lyrics, but I don’t know the name of the song if there is one.”

Interviewer: “Cool, go ahead when you are ready.”

Informant: “Miss Susie had a steamboat, the steamboat had a bell / Miss Susie went to heaven, the steamboat went to / hello operator, please give me number nine / and if you disconnect me, I’ll cut off your / behind the fridgerator, there was a shard of glass / Miss Susie sat upon it, and cut her big fat / ask me no more questions, I’ll tell you no more lies / the boys are in the bathroom, zipping up their / flies are in the field, the bees are in the park / Miss Susie and her boyfriend are kissing in the / dark, dark, dark, dark / dark is like a movie, a movie’s like a show / a show is like a video and that’s not all I know / I know your ma, I know your pa, and your sister with a forty acre bra!”

Background:

The informant learned this song from young friends during elementary school. It was a common tune that kids liked to sing during recess.

Context:

The informant sung me the song during a phone conversation about childhood songs and stories.

Thoughts:

The purpose of this song is clear: kids use it as an excuse to utilize taboo words without technically saying anything wrong (e.g. instead of stopping at ‘big fat ass,’ the next line is used to change ‘ass’ to ‘ask’ so as to disguise the usage of the disallowed word). This way, kids are able to use words they traditionally would not be allowed to without fear of getting in trouble for misbehaving. This is a classic example of children’s folklore being used to toy with the idea of authority. Through folklore, children are constantly pressing the boundaries of what is acceptable.

Musical
Narrative

Frankie and Johnny (Folksong)

Piece:

Informant: “I really love that song, Frankie and Johnny it goes. I will sing it for you (recites the lyrics in a sing song voice): Frankie and Johnny were lovers / Lordy could they love / They swore to be true to each other / Just as true as the stars above / He was her man, but she was doin’ him wrong (laughs)”

Background:

The informant learned this tune from her mother, who sang the song, much to her teacher and class’s shock, at a show and tell during elementary school. The informant notes the similarity between this song and the story of Bonnie and Clyde, and hypothesizes that there is a connection between the two.

Context:

This was recorded during a conversation at the informant’s home in San Diego, CA.

Thoughts:

When the informant sang this song and mentioned that it was inappropriate for an elementary school show and tell, I decided to do further research into other verses or variants on the same verse because the lines she remembered didn’t seem to point at anything particularly inappropriate (I figured “doin’ him wrong” must have a sort of sexual implication). Sure enough, I was able to find much longer versions of the song, which described the story of Frankie shooting Johnny after she found him sleeping with another woman. Interestingly, because the act of sleeping with another is ostensibly what the informant meant by “doin’ him wrong,” the two different versions have the roles of each character reversed. In the version I was able to find, the line is “doing her wrong,” implying that Frankie found Johnny sleeping with another woman, whereas in the informant’s version, the line is “doin’ him wrong,” which would suggest the opposite: that Johnny discovered Frankie sleeping with another man.

Annotation:

For an alternative version of this song, see Lyon College’s Wolf Folklore Collection:

“Frankie and Johnny.” Wolf Folklore Collection, edited by John Quincy Wolf, Jr., Lyon College, web.lyon.edu/wolfcollection/songs/andersonfrankie1257.html. Accessed 24 Apr. 2019.

Childhood
Gestures
Humor
Musical
Riddle
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Children Hand Sign Language about Sexuality

Collector’s Note: This child’s hand sign song has a particular hand motion that comes at the end of the first two sentences. It is followed by two more gestures within the second sentence after the word “this”. It is best to first read the song straight through and later refer to each sentence’s number and timing of hand motion while viewing the corresponding pictures in order.

“Good girls sit like this. (1)

Catholic girls sit like this. (2)

Girls who sit like this, (3)

get this, (4)

like this. (5) *snap* ”

Screen Shot 2019-04-24 at 3.13.11 PM

Context: This piece was collected at the childhood home of a friend of the collector from both elementary and middle school after speaking about their friendship as children.

Informant Analysis: While in elementary school around the age of 10, she remembers that girls would sing this song with the corresponding hand gestures to each other during recess. She said that it is “weird” to look back on that hand game since it seems to represent the sexual activity of women through stereotypes and body position. She recited the meaning as, “if you are a good girl, you keep your legs closed. If you are a Catholic girl, you really keep your legs closed by crossing them. If you are a bad girl, you sit with your legs apart, which for some reason means you will get d**k quicker? I mean, that is essentially what it says, but it says it politely.”

At the young age of when they preformed the hand game, she said that it was not necessarily considered to be sexual in nature, but more of a fun sign language you could teach other girls. She recalls that she never had seen a boy make the hand gesture and song while in elementary school, as it seemed to be like a secret code/handshake between girls. The informant was uncertain as to who taught her the game, but guessed that it was a friend. She also could not remember if this hand game was ever shared with adults, but believed it was probably not. Even though at the time they did not view the hand game as sexual, they did understand that if adults saw it, they would be punished, and they  “did not want to get in trouble.”

Collector Analysis: Being a participant in this folk gesture/song/game, there were a few key aspects that I had not noticed until interviewing the informant. It is easy to assume that this hand game is a way to teach young girls to suppress their sexuality with, what could be considered, the goal of having fewer teen pregnancies. This would imply that adults with knowledge of the effects of teen pregnancy would have to be the root of this piece. Another viewpoint is that the hand game is a way young girls teach each other about the image one presents to the world and it’s importance in not becoming promiscuous (perhaps an antecedent form of slut-shaming). However, I do not believe these interpretations to be the most nuanced if we take into account that the actual piece never mentions girls sitting with their legs open as being “bad” as the informant said.

We can also note that the hand game was played only between young girls. The explicit nature of the content may have something to do with why this piece is gender segregated. It could be that there may be a level of shame that perhaps young boys do not encounter as harshly with regard to their own sexual activity. However, there must be more to the gender segregated sharing of this piece since the young girls did not fully understand the meaning of the hand game at the time. Therefore, I argue that the gender segregated sharing could not only be the sexual shame that often occurs for women as they hit puberty. What the informant referred to as a secret code or handshake seems more probable a source to create the gender segregation. The hand game gives young girls, upon the sudden awareness of gender in elementary school, a way to form a group or friendship around gender commonality. Thus, the performance of the hand game would be an expression of being in the group by having intimate knowledge of their particular gestures.

Lastly, the game itself explicitly refers to girls while never mentioning the male gender except through a crude phallic symbol. To this extent, it is very much a childish thought to represent men only as their sexual organ while also only referring to it as “this” (perhaps taboo word). The game’s proliferation among girls occur by virtue of the excitement in referring to a taboo subject or word among children.

Folk speech
general
Humor
Musical

Anti-Lullaby to Children

“Nobody likes me, everybody hates me, guess I’ll eat some worms. Short fat skinny ones, itty-bitty little ones, guess I’ll eat some worms.”

Context: The song was originally preformed by the mother of the collector when her child said that she was having difficulties making friends with children during elementary school. The collection is taken from a later date when asked to recite the song.

Informant Analysis Below:

The informant had grown up switching many schools, about 11, during her time from elementary through high school. She noted that because of moving around so much she often had difficulty making strong friendships. This song seemed to encapsulate the self-pity she once had as a child, and how she learned to become less emotional about such things.

Informant: “I honestly don’t remember when I first heard it, but I know it was definitely while I was still a child. It’s possible my mom also sang that to me too.”

Collector: “Do you have any idea of what it means?”

Informant: “I think it is saying, like, who cares if you feel unliked. Be stronger than that. The whole eating worms thing, to me, is saying that if you are gonna whine about not having friends, might as well eat worms while you are at it because the world does not care.”

Collector Analysis: Lullabies in themselves are supposed to be calming and reassuring to a child. This lullaby is rather odd because it does no such task. It seems to point out any amount of self-pity one may have for themselves and make light of it. In doing so, it can be seen as “tough love” and harsh in many ways. The concept of not being liked is a very common fear, not just for children, but for adults too. Perhaps when told to a child it not only is meant to teach children to “toughen up”, but also remind the adult to do the same. I believe this piece also has a lot to do with the drives in American culture of being self-sufficient. Starting at a young age, it would make sense to instill a sense of individualism by not caring what others think onto a child.

Childhood
Game
Kinesthetic
Musical

No Music Party Chant

Main Piece:

 Informant: It’s simple. It’s just like, if the music cuts out at a party, or if like, the speaker blows and there’s a long stretch of silence someone will stand up and start a “No Music” chant. It’s like, one person will clap three times and then the rest of the party will reply “No Music!” in rythm back. God. And that’ll keep going until someone has the music back on again.

Background:  The informant is a senior here at USC. He is my next door neighbor and we conducted this interview in person at his apartment. He is from Manhattan Beach and has lived there for his entire life. He is a social individual and has attended many parties throughout high school and college. He attended a large high school in Manhattan Beach.

Context: The informant learned of this chant/song when he experienced it first hand. Typically, this kind of chant is typical amongst high school “party” culture. The informant clearly didn’t have high praise for this piece of American high school party folklore. He had no idea when this chant came about, but was certain it had been along for much longer than he had been around.

Analysis: I specifically asked the informant whether or not he had experienced this chant in his own life. I was interested because in own hometown, whenever a situation like this would occur at a social gathering we would break out in a similar style chant. However, In my experience, the chant involved much more rhythm and was significantly more intricate. Another contrast is that I look back on this chant fondly, in comparison to the informant. This could potentially be because my school was much smaller in size and emphasized an arts-based education. This chant is folklore because it contains multiplicity and variation (Dundes) and is an example of artistic communication performed in small groups (Ben-Amos). While the informant’s chant is more simplistic, that could be due to the large nature of his high school. On the other hand, the chant I experienced could be a function of my high school emphasizing artistic performance, making my community more willing to indulge the dramatic nature of the chant.

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