Tag Archives: children’s song

Naughty Nursery Rhyme- Driving Down the Highway

Context: My informant went to elementary school in the ‘70s and sang me this song he said was used to pick on other kids you didn’t like. He told me it was a song that everyone knew, and everyone was afraid to have it sung to them. He remembers it today because of how funny he thought it was as a child.

Song Lyrics: 

    Driving down the highway, highway 64

    [Name] ripped a big one, it blew out the door

    Engine couldn’t stand it

    Engine blew apart

    All because of [name]’s supersonic fart

My thoughts: This definitely sounds like a song you would sing to make fun of friends and enemies. I hadn’t heard this song, and no one my age that I’ve talked to knows this song, so it must have gotten less popular as the years went on. I looked it up and found different versions for different regions. Here’s a link to an archive by hosted by Straight Dope where you can find different versions of this song, and other “naughty kid nursery rhymes” https://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/archive/index.php/t-271331.html

Rattlesnake: A Conga Line Game

Background: The informant is a woman in her late fifties who grew up in downstate New York in Queens and on Long Island before moving to upstate New York for college. In her mid 20s, she moved out to Southern California and she had lived there ever since. She comes from a large family of Catholic Irish-Americans. She attended public grade schools.

Main Text:

“There was one that I loved! And it was…think of a conga line but it wasn’t really a conga line. It would be kids in this long line and they would do these intricate back-and-forth kinds of movements, yknow we would all move together. And it was [singing] “R-A-T-T-L-E-S-N-A-K-E spells rattlesnake” and we just did that over and over again while we did this little…I loved that game! I don’t know why, but it was just…but we did all these intricate, back-and-forth pattersn and it was all these kids in a line.”

Context: The informant specified that this game was performed on the playground during recess and at lunch, mostly during the earlier half of elemenatary school. It was not organized by teachers, and it involved large groups of children—around a class size or more, so twenty kids and up.

Thoughts: I’d never heard of this game before, but I’m familiar enough with a conga line to get the gist of what the informant was playing. It was probably a combination of the movement and accompanying song that made the game so compelling to TR as a young child. I do think it’s funny how they referred to it as a nearly hypnotic-experience, and I’m impressed that such a large group of young children organized themselves well enough to execute this game on a daily basis, not to mention their ability to transcend friend groups.

I Love A Lassie

MAIN PIECE

I Love A Lassie

“I love a lassie, a bonnie bonnie lassie, 

She’s as pure as a lily in the dell, 

She’s sweet as the heather, the bonnie bloomin’ heather,

Mary, my Scots bluebell.”

“[I Love A] Lassie is a lullaby that a lot of Scottish girls heard growing up.  We’d sing it to the boys too, but for some reason it was more of a girl’s song.  It’s very romantic and uplifting, which I believe a lot of our lullabies are.  We’d  sing it to girls when we wanted them to go to sleep.  I had no daughters, but I’d sing it to my granddaughters when I rocked them in my arms.”

BACKGROUND

This informant, MS, comes from Aberdeen, Scotland and has lived there for all of her life, except for a few years she spent in London.   She’s from the silent generation and has grown up with children around her for a lot of her life.  She also knows this song from when her mother would sing it to her, as well, she remembers it from hearing it in the schoolyard and local playdate-like meetings with her friends growing up.

CONTEXT

I invited MS, my great grandmother, to talk with me after a family reunion zoom call.  A few days later, we got together and we live streamed a rerun of Strictly Come Dancing over zoom and during the commercial breaks, we talked over some  folklore from her life in Scotland, specifically from her childhood in Aberdeen.

THOUGHTS

It’s strange to think a romantic song could be a lullaby because it’s not meant for people in romances, but instead, children.  I think this song represents a Scottish romanticism we don’t see portrayed in the media all the time.  It stands for this idealized woman, so it’s interesting that it is sung to girls instead of boys.  Boys may relate to the desire of the image more, but I believe there might be a sense of describing what a woman should be like to little girls so that they can grow up to be “Mary, my Scot’s bluebell”.

Barney Song

Context: 

This piece was collected over a casual FaceTime in which we were previously just catching up and talking about our elementary school experiences. We are close friends who met in high school and have known each other for five years. My informant (JS) was born in California and is now attending Carnegie Mellon as Computer Science major. He enjoys coding, playing video games, and weight lifting.

Main Piece:

The following is transcribed from a conversation between the informant (JS) and interviewer.

Interviewer: Wait you had the Barney Song too?!

JS: Yeah, wait we did! Wait let me sing it for you, how did it go again, oh yeah, yeah it was like this

Hurray, hurray, Barney’s dead,

We barbequed his head!

We didn’t care about his body,

So we flushed it down the potty

And around around it went

Around, around it went!

Down in the drains, through the ocean, bye bye Barney’s body!

Thoughts: 

The first time I heard the Barney Song was when I was in fourth grade. From what I’ve gathered from my friends, many middle schools had variations of the Barney Song, and each was as sadistic as the next. For some reason, we all wanted Barney dead. This might have been our way of rebelling against popular culture and authority, in our own small way. Many of us grew up watching the Barney and Friends show, so this was our way to make fun of the adults for pushing the show on us or to shock them with our violent words directed towards a character we were supposed to love.

Morning Song – Korea

Original Script:

아침해가 떴습니다

자리에서 일어나

이빨 닦고 세수하고

학교에 갑시다

 

Phonetic (Roman) Script:

achimhaega tteossseubnida

jalieseo il-eona

ippal dakkgo sesuhago

haggyoe gabsida

 

Translation:

The morning sun has arisen

Get up from bed

Brush your teeth, wash your face

Let’s go to school

 

My mom was born in South Korean, but moved to America when she was 16 years old. She told me that she had learned this song about 45 years ago when she was in first grade. She isn’t sure if they still teach this song, or if it is something that all schools taught or just hers. Everyone was taught to sing this song during music class. Music is a great way to reach students; it can help discreetly teach important lessons. My mom said students were taught to sing this song in particular as a way to encourage them to get up for school and help them develop a morning routine. When I was little, we used to sing this song together all the time. It was actually really effective in getting me out of bed, and made it more entertaining to get ready in the morning by singing along with her.

Sma Grordorna – Swedish Midsummer Celebration Song

Informant:

Elliot Danielsson is a 21 year old man from Gothenburg, Sweden. This is his favorite folk song from his native Swedish culture. He also says that almost everyone in his town “and probably most of Sweden” knows this song and sings it during their Midsummer Celebration.

Folk Song:

Små grodorna, små grordorna

är lustiga att se.

(Repeat)

Ej öron, ej öron, ej suansar

hava de.

(Repeat)

What the song is about:

Elliot: “It’s…uh…kinda hard to give a straight translation, but it’s basically about…It’s small frogs without tails or ears, which makes their lives very difficult, but they are still full of joy and love dancing around a tree. It basically shows how even though we all may live tough lives, we can still live our lives with happiness and joy.”

Context:

Elliot: “It is most often performed at any celebration that whatever Swedish town is putting on the…uh…celebration. Kids, like, love singing it during the celebration, and adults join in too.”

My thoughts:

Elliot also added that this Midsummer Celebration is comparable to America’s Christmas in regards to popularity, and one of the biggest parts (and probably my favorite part) of our Christmas traditions is Christmas music. Therefore, this song that is connected with a major holiday is very interesting to me because I did not know that other cultures’ holidays also often had music that went along with them.

Morbid Jingle Bells

I was first taught this song at the age of 10 while at a ski lodge in Lake Tahoe:

Dashing through the snow, On a pair of broken skis

O’er the hills we go, Crashing into trees

The Snow is turning red, I think I’m almost dead

I woke up in the hospital with staples in my head, Oh! 

Jingle bells, Jingle bells, Santa’s almost dead!

Rudolph brought an atom bomb and blast it on his head, Oh! 

Barbie doll, Barbie doll, tried to save his life,

But G.I. Joe from Mexico (??) and stabbed him in the head! 

The entire some makes absolutely no sense, grammatically or logically, but it was catchy and as children it was easy to latch onto because American pre-teens have a tendency to want to appear grown-up by pretending to be unfazed by gruesome ideas. Also, the people I was friends with at the age of 10 all spoke English as a second language, so we never noticed how ungrammatical it was until years later. There are in fact other versions of the song with similar violent vibes, but usually only the first verse (before Jingle Bells) is the same. I tried to look up any instances of this that appear in media, but all I found was that this morbid version is actually very widespread.

In December 2014, I heard a few lines from this version of the song while on vacation in Reno, sung by two giggling Chinese-American girls between the ages of 7 and 10. I had always thought that this was something my friend AZ had made up back in 2003, so I tracked him down to find out where he’d heard it.

AZ told me that he had heard it while in art class from GT, who I happen to now know. He was singing the song for attention at the time, but the lyrics he knows were grammatical, as it removes the “and” in the last line, AZ just remembered it wrong when he sang it back. When I asked him where he’d heard it, he only remembered that it was from Minnesota, but no longer remembers the details of who sang it at him and the circumstances under which he learned it.

Oh Alice

“One of the things I remember about growing up was that my mom would sing me funny songs and after she would sing them she would crack up. Even though my family experienced a lot of loss and pain, it was always great to hear my mom’s laugh. One of the songs she used to sing was about Alice. When she sang it she thought it was so funny, but it would scare me. I was a little girl and I thought I might go down the drain!”

The lyrics are as follow:

Alice, where are you going?

Upstairs to take a bath

Her shape is like a toothpick

Her head is like a tack

Oh my goodness, oh my soul there goes Alice down the hole!

Oh Alice, where are you going?

An audio recording of Gloriadele Guzman (the mother of the informant, referenced above) singing the song has been provided: Oh Alice

I collected this song from my mother. It was fun for me because I also remember my grandmother singing me this song when I was a little girl. I had always thought it was a song my grandmother had made up but I found some other versions of the song online. My grandmothers version is slightly different. Some of the other version include more details that has caused some people to infer that the song is actually about Alice in Wonderland.

For one of the other versions of this song please see: http://www.rahelmusic.net/lyrics-kidsongs.html

Marco in the Meadows

“Marco skače, Marco skače

po zeleni trati,

Aj aj ajajaj

Po zeleni trati.

Translation:

“Marco is jumping

over the green meadows

aj aj ajajaj

over the green meadows”

This is a traditional Slovenian nursery rhyme, one that I was raised listening to as my mother sang it to me as a child. She said that it was a song generally sung with many children who held hands and danced in circles. The informant has no information as to its origin or its meaning, though the reference to meadows suggests a more rural origin.

Clapping game rhyme/song

Context: The informant is a Pakistani-American 11-year-old girl and a 6th grader at a public school in Torrance, CA.  The following clapping rhyme is a two-person game she learned in first grade.

Content:

“I went to a Chinese restaurant

To buy a loaf of bread, bread, bread

She asked me what my name was

And this is what i said, said, said

My name is

L-I-L-I, Pickle-eye pickle-eye

pom-pom beauty, sleeping beauty

Then she told me to freeze freeze freeze

And whoever moves, loses.”

The word “freeze” may be said either once or three times, and at that moment the players must both freeze. The informant also showed me the two kinds of clapping sequence that are used for the two parts of the game, one for the first four lines, and the other for lines 6-8.

Analysis: At first glance, the rhyme seems like complete nonsense; but upon further examination, the rhyme could conceal casual racism. “Li” could be an East Asian name. Rhyming it with “pickle-eye” (which itself could be referring to culturally unfamiliar food which is automatically dismissed as unnatural or revolting–for instance recall the urban legend where neighborhood cats/dogs were disappearing after immigrants from [insert Asian country here] moved in), which is essentially a nonsense word, could be meant to show disrespect towards all people with similarly “Asian” names. Then referring to oneself as a “pom-pom beauty” (perhaps referring to a cheerleader’s pom-poms) and “sleeping beauty” (the classic western fairy tale) as a contrast to the “Li” lady is like proclaiming, I am an all-American girl, like a cheerleader or Sleeping Beauty, and you are not.