MR: “Oh…Did you ever play Bubblegum bubblegum in a dish, how many pieces do you wish?”
MG: Wait can you explain how it went?
MR: “When you are going to play a game and you need to choose a person, everyone has to put their shoe in the middle (puts foot in middle) then you say …”Bubblegum bubblegum in a dish, how many pieces do you wish?” oh and then whoever it lands on has to pick a number and then it continues until that number is reached. Whoever it lands on gets out until the last person is left.”
Context: We were talking about childhood games and this rhyme came up.
Background: Informant is twenty four years old and from the Los Angeles area. RR remembers playing this in school for tag or hide and seek and also with her cousins. She believes she learned this from the other students in her class. Then, she taught this to her little brothers.
Analysis: Children often teach other children folklore. I thought it was quite interesting that regardless of the fact that RR is two/three years older than me, I also learned this rhyme from other children in my school. It shows that folklore can live on for many years and now lives in our memories. This song/rhyme is a common example of children bringing order and structure to their play. This rhyme allows children to choose a leader in a fair way. Because the person it lands on the first time gets to chose a number it leads it up to fate, in a sense, to choose the person who will be “it.” It prevents kids from fighting over being chosen or not being chosen.
Other versions of this include using one’s fist to count rather than one’s shoes. For this version please see: https://www.mamalisa.com/?t=es&p=2776
The informant is my 9-year-old cousin, who lives in Buena Park, California. I asked her about what rhymes she knew, and she shared this one with me. Though she could not remember where she first heard it, she believes it was from other kids at school when she was younger.
“Eenie Meenie Miney Moe/catch a tiger by the toe/if he hollers make him pay/fifty dollars every day/red, white, and blue/I choose you.”
This was particularly interesting to me, because this is a rhyme that is fairly universal in children’s lore. Though these were not the lyrics I remember from when I was younger, I recited a version of this rhyme when I was growing up, and almost everyone I know also knows this rhyme. The fact that this rhyme has been so widespread and also has so many different versions demonstrates the “multiplicity and variation” of folklore as laid out by Dundes. The “red, white, and blue” part of the rhyme was particularly interesting to me, because it made this version specific to the U.S. Because this rhyme exists in the United Kingdom as well as in other English-speaking countries, I thought it was interesting that this version specifically referenced the colors of the American flag. After doing some research, I found that different versions of the rhyme have arisen over time, each of them reflecting the specific time period during which they were invented. For example, during World War II, children in Atlanta recited this version of the rhyme: “Eenie, meenie, minie, moe/Catch the emperor by his toe/If he hollers make him say:/’I surrender to the USA.'” There have also been racist variations of this rhyme using the n-word that appeared in the mid- to late-1800s, around the time of the Civil War.
For more versions of this rhyme, see “Counting-out Rhymes: A Dictionary” by R. D. Abrahams and L. Rankin. (R. D. Abrahams and L. Rankin, Counting-out Rhymes: a Dictionary (University of Texas Press, 1980)).