Tag Archives: rhyme

Sana, sana, colita de rana – a Spanish children’s rhyme

Spanish: Sana sana colita de rana si no sana hoy sanara mañana

Translation: Heal, heal, little tail of the frog. If you don’t heal today, you’ll heal tomorrow.

Full translation

AG: This is something that parents tell their children basically, when they complain about something hurting or something going wrong. It rhymes, too, which is why kids like it and why people remember it. It’s basically saying that it’s okay if something isn’t fixed right now, because it’ll be fixed by tomorrow on it’s own. So don’t worry about it too much.

Background:

The informant, AG, was born in the US. His parents are from Mexico, specifically Jalisco and Hidalgo. AG remembers this rhyme because his parents used to tell it to him.

Context

This story was collected over a zoom call. I asked a group of friends what things their parents used to tell them when they were little, and when this rhyme came up, they all laughed in acknowledgement. That makes me think that this must be a fairly popular saying.

Thoughts:

This rhyme is interesting because I feel like it is more meaningful than a lot of other American rhymes for children (the main, and actually only one, that I can think of being “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” which is not very deep). The fact that this was the first thing that AG thought of spoke to its prominence, and also probably that it’s a good representation of Spanish rhymes for children. I once spoke to a songwriter, MW, who said that it is a lot more difficult to come up with meaningful songs in English than Japanese and Chinese, simply because there are so many more words/sounds that rhyme in Japanese in Chinese. In English, a lot of common words end in a rhyme with “ee,” “oo,” or “ay” and if it doesn’t, then it’s a little harder to rhyme with anything else in a casual way. I wonder if this is the same for Spanish, because then it would explain why we have no common meaningful rhymes for children where Spanish might have more.

Lemonade, Crunchy Ice

Main Piece:

The informant recited a rhyme that she remembered from elementary school. 

“Lemonade (clap, clap, clap)

Crunchy ice (clap, clap, clap)

Sip it once (clap, clap, clap)

Sip it twice (clap, clap, clap)

Lemonade, crunchy ice, sip it, once sip it twice

Turn around, touch the ground

Freeze”

The informant explained after one girl said freeze you lost by being the first person to move, so the girls would stay frozen for as long as they could.

Background:

The informant explained that there were many rhymes that she and her classmates would turn into games. Having these rhymes memorized was seen as being really cool or made you more popular, according to the informant. This occurred at a public, co-ed elementary school in a suburb of the midwestern United States.

Context:

This game would be played between two girls. The informant explained they would normally play when they were waiting in line between classes or after recess to pass the time.

Thoughts:

Rhyming games like this one exist in many iterations all over globe but the emphasis on lemonade and ice in this rhyme seems particularly American. It also evolves into a competition by the end to make the game carry on beyond the words. School girls can use these rhymes to develop friendships and bond with one another. It creates a small community of girls that can all join in on something similar and play with one another in an organized fashion. This form of folklore holds significance in childhood and also evokes nostalgia for adults. The informant explaining this to me was an adult but recalled this rhyme with ease.


Ms. Lucy Nursery Rhyme

  • Context: The informants are brothers A, 19, and B, 15. This transcription was taken from an argument between the brothers over the “correct” words to the nursery rhyme about “Ms. Lucy.” The nursery rhyme is used mostly as a schoolyard game, sometimes accompanied by a hand-game the brothers tell me, but in their argument they were only debating the words of the rhyme itself. 
  • Text:

B: It starts off ‘Ms. Lucy has a baby, his name was tiny Tim…’

A: No it doesn’t, it goes ‘Ms. Lucy had a steamboat, the steamboat had a…”

B: No that’s not what I’m talking about!

A: Well, what are you talking about? 

B: I’m talking about the one mom taught us.

A: Okay, fine, what one?

B: ‘Ms. Lucy had a baby, his name was Tiny Tim

She put him in the bathtub, to see if he could swim

He drank up all the water, he ate up all the soap

He tried to eat the bath tub, but it wouldn’t go down his throat

Ms. Lucy called the doctor, Ms. Lucy called the nurse,

Ms. Lucy called the baby with the alligator purse 

Mumps said the doctor, Measles said the nurse, 

Nonsense said the lady with the alligator purse 

Penicillin said the doctor, castor oil said the nurse,

Pizza said the lady with the alligator purse

Out went the doctor, out went the nurse, out went the lady with the allegator purse’

A: Okay. Yeah, but I was talking about the other version.

B: What’s your version?

A (B starts singing along): 

‘Ms. Lucy had a steamboat, the steamboat had a bell (ding ding)

Ms. Lucy went to heaven and the steamboat went to 

Hello operator, give me number 9, if you disconnect me I’ll chop off your 

Behind the ‘fridgerator, there was a piece of glass 

Ms. Lucy sat upon it and cut her big fat 

Ask me no more questions, tell me no more lies

The boys are in the bathroom zipping up their 

Flies are in the meadow, bees are in the park

Ms. Lucy and her boyfriend kissing in the D-A-R-K D-A-R-K 

Dark dark dark’

B: I know that one.

A: Is that where you stop?

B: What do you mean?

A: Mine keeps going. It goes… 

‘Darker than the ocean, darker than the sea 

Darker than the underwear my Mommy puts on me’ 

  • Analysis: I had also learned the Ms. Lucy version that informant B was singing from my mother and many of my friends would play it with me as a hand game on the play ground in elementary school. Once I entered middle-school, the version that informant A sang became popular at school. But at my school, we continued the rhyme even further. We would sing… 

‘Me is very special, Me is very great’ 

And then we would have different variations after those lyrics. Usually ending with… 

‘I kicked him over London, I kicked him over France

I kicked him over the USA and saw his underpants’

I think the reason the versions change is because of the intended audience. The first version, presented by informant B, is much more suitable for children. It is funny because of the motif of the alligator purse and the fact that she wants the baby to eat pizza, which is a food often enjoyed by children. The version presented by informant A is much more rich with “inappropriate” lingo. At the end of each verse, it leads into the next by using near rhyme with a swear word. For example “hell” goes to “hello” and “ass” goes to “ask.” In addition, there are sexual references, both to male genitalia and to Ms. Lucy and her boyfriend kissing in the dark. I asked the meaning of the “dark underwear that mommy puts on me,” and there was a consensus that it was referring to underwear stained by period blood. This version of the nursery rhyme often occurs when children are in middle school, which makes sense because that’s often when you start using swear words, have your first kiss, and begin menstruating.

For other versions, visit https://www.bussongs.com/songs/miss-lucy-had-a-steam-boat

“Miss Lucy Had a Steam Boat: Nursery Rhymes & Kids’ Songs.” Nursery Rhymes & Kids’ Songs | BusSongs.com, 9 July 2008, www.bussongs.com/songs/miss-lucy-had-a-steam-boat.

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.

 

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.

 

Chinese, Japanese, Look At These, Hit My Knees

“I had an ummm…. sort of racist I mean it was very racist, I think this might have been in the Devils Rejects, was it in the devil’s rejects? I think it was anyways I did the same thing as the people in the Devil’s Rejects did in elementary school… not murdering people… but this demented nursery rhyme… it went sort of like ‘Chinese, Japanese, look at these hit my knees*’ it was very racist and I think that’s why we did it and even the Japanese kids in our class did it…. ummmmm…. We knew it was bad and we did it anyways (laughs)”

*note the informant does motions with his hands when he says “Chinese” he stretches his eyes length wise, “Japanese” he stretches them width wise, “Look at these” he motions towards his chest as if to insinuate breasts, “Hit my knees” fairly self explanatory, the speaker hits his knees.

I found this one interesting because it’s a rhyme that’s clearly at the level where it’s made for kids. It’s very intentionally crude as sort of a taboo rhyme. It was a horrible non sensical thing to say but it whoever said it felt like they were breaking rules. This probably added to the fun of the rhyme.

Armenian Days of the Week Rhyme

Armenian: Ուրբաթ, Շաբաթ, Կիրակի, արջը գնաց մարզանկի, ուսթա Սակոն կրակեց, արջի փորա դրակեց.

Phonetic Translation: Urbat’, Shabat’, Kiraki, arjy gnats’ marzanki, ust’a Sakon krakets’, arji p’vora drakets’.

English Translation: Friday, Saturday, Sunday. A bear went to the gym. A hunter saw the bear. The hunter shot the bear, and the bear’s stomach exploded.

Context: The informant, who is Armenian, and I were having a conversation on April 24th, the anniversary of the Armenian genocide. She shared this rhyme, which is used to teach children the days of the week, with me during this conversation.

Interview Transcript:

Informant: The way that… So, in Armenia the way that parents will teach their children the days of the week is we have this rhyme. So, you say the days of the week, Monday through Friday. Armenians start with Mondays, we don’t start with Sundays. And it goes: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday. A bear went the gym. A hunter saw the bear. The hunter shot the bear, and the bear’s stomach exploded.

[Laughter]

Me: Wow…

Informant: And it’s… it is really violent, but it rhymes really well, and so it’s caught on a lot to Armenian kids.

Me: Where do children usually learn this from?

Informant: Hmm… Armenian education systems are different than in America. For example, a child is expected to go to elementary school with… sort of the basics already down… Like the mother is expected to be a very good mother in that sense, if you think that a mother teaching you, you know, education at such a young age is a quality of a good mother. Um, they were supposed to come in with like a working knowledge, and the rhyme was generally taught by the mothers. So it was just a fun way for the kids to like, learn it and, you know, it was funny. Like, the violence in it, in Armenian stories in general. Just like in Grimms’ fairy tales. They’re very violent, and it’s just what makes them funny.

Analysis:

This rhyme is an example of violent children’s humor. Children’s media, such as the Warner Bros. television show Looney Tunes, often contain violence and, specifically, violent humor, despite the association of children with innocence. This rhyme also provides children with an easy way to remember the days of the week, as the rhyme associates memorization of them with something funny.

“This is Buggy”

Context: The informant is an 11-year-old resident of Southern California, of Indo-Pakistani descent. She lives with two older siblings, parents, and grandparents and attends a public middle school in the South Bay area. She has close friends of many different religious and ethnic backgrounds, and the following narrative sequence is one she learned from one of these friends while she was still in elementary school.

Transcript of video:

“This is Buggy!

Buggy says hi!

Buggy can fly!

Yay for Buggy!

Oops, Buggy died.”

Analysis: The informant says she learned it only a couple years ago and remembered it because she “thought it was cool” and “kind of funny”. The informant relates that she enjoys many types of art, including drawing and painting, and often is in charge of making signs for events among her friend group, like yard sales and party invitations. So the personal appeal to a young artist or craftsperson is obvious.

I think the general appeal here is similar: the fact that with a few simple drawings and letters, an entire story can be told with little effort. The idea that there are just enough fingers on a person’s hand to write “T-H-I-S” on the knuckles, and then fold different fingers to show different words, must be appealing to kids who are just starting to appreciate the difficulties of both language and tactile crafts such as beading, painting, or cursive handwriting. The simple story is also humorous and a common enough occurrence: trying to save a little bug only to find that you unfortunately don’t know your own strength; or simply the humor of seeing something that causes many small children, especially girls, some anxiety–“creepy crawlies”–being put out in such a messy and unceremonious manner helps them cope with those anxieties indirectly while not being called out as a “scaredy cat” or a “sissy”.

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.

Clapping game rhyme/song

Context: The informant is an 11 year old girl of Pakistani descent. She is a 6th grader at a public school in Torrance, CA.  Her social groups include friends of many different religious and ethnic backgrounds. The following clapping rhyme is a two-person game she learned in first grade.

Content:

Lemonade,

iced tea

Coca-cola,

Pepsi

Lemonade, iced tea, Coca-cola, Pepsi,

turn around, touch the ground, kick your boyfriend out of town, freeze

Another version from the same informant begins with the same line:

Lemonade,

crunchy ice

Beat it once,

beat it twice,

Lemonade, crunchy ice, beat it once, beat it twice,

turn around, touch the ground, kick your boyfriend out of town, freeze

In the last line of both versions, the players may perform the actions sung: they turn in a circle, drop to a crouch to touch the ground, and may even stand up and make a kicking motion. At the word “freeze,” both players must stop moving, and the first to move loses.

Analysis: I learned a version of this game, similar to the second version recorded, from cousins who went to the same school district as the informant. Instead of the words “beat it,” however, the words “pour it” were used, and the last line was completely omitted. The rhyme ended with the players crying “Statue!” and the first person to move, lost. Somehow, however, a player was allowed to tickle the other person to get them to move, even though tickling would seemingly count as moving. 

The incorporation of Coca-cola and Pepsi, both globally-recognizable drink names, into the rhyme is evidence of how popular the drink is worldwide and how it has been incorporated into “American” or “Southern California” culture, that children are mentioning it in their songs along with the ever-popular summer drink of lemonade.

The last line “Turn around, touch the ground” seems to be echoing some long-dead magic ritual, especially when followed by a mention of the singer’s boyfriend (keeping in mind that 11 years old, the majority of children likely have nothing close to a romantic partner yet). Also, the pouring of the drink–once, then twice–would seem to recall the adult practice of pouring drinks for oneself and one’s partner after a long day or at a party. This shows this age-group’s (perhaps unconscious) desire to  mimic the adult relationships they see with their own peers.