Tag Archives: song

Miss Mary Mack Hand Game

Main Piece:

Here is a transcription of my (CB) interview with my informant (PB).

CB: So what was it?

PB: It was a hand clapping song. There were specific hand claps that went with it, and it was for two persons, or three persons. And it was called Miss Mary Mack”

CB: “How did it go?”

PB: “Old Mary Mack Mack Mack

All dressed in black black black

With silver buttons buttons buttons

All down her back back back 

She asked her mother mother mother

For fifty cents cents cents

To the animals animal animals

Jump over the fence fence fence

They jumped so high high high 

They touched the sky sky sky

And they never came back back back

To Mary Mack Mack Mack”

CB: “So what do you think is the meaning of the song?”

PB: “The meaning of the song? I just… I think it was mostly nonsense to be honest. I think it was just rhymy, and she had to ask her mother for the money to go to the zoo basically, and then she fantasizes about the animals who can fly over the fence.”

CB: “Why do you think its important and people do it?”

PB: “I think it connects them with all the people in the group that they’re doing it with. And it can help improve their skill and memory”

CB: “Where and in what context would people do it?”

PB: “Um, gosh you know sometimes, if you’re at like a sporting a event for one of your relatives. Like your sister plays softball and you don’t, or if your brother plays football and you’re bored, then like a bunch of the younger kids would get together to pass the time. They would kind see how fast they could do it, and do it faster and faster each time or in line at school the kids would do it.”

Background:

Miss Mary Mack is just one of many hand games that children grow up playing. My informant actually taught me this game and many others like it. Because the games are so popular and widespread, they are able to connect kids who might have very different experiences.

Context:

I interviewed my informant in person. We were in my bedroom on my bed, and the conversation was very comfortable and casual. I had heard and played the hand game many times beforehand.


Thoughts:

I grew up with hand games being a very gendered activity. Only girls would play the games at school, and as my informant described, girls would often use them as entertainment while boys played the more stereotypically masculine games such as sports. I learned Miss Mary Mack from my mother, but learned other hand games from siblings, cousins, aunts, and my grandma. It often followed the pattern where older women would teach young girls the games. Like Miss Mary Mack, the songs often had no clear meaning but were repeated for amusement. The songs did often have connections to common aspects of childhood, as is seen when Mary asks her mother for permission and money to go to the zoo. I think that these games represent the way that gender roles are passed down through society. While it was never explicitly stated, the older generation’s involvement in sharing these games clearly state that they approve of them. The girls who learn them then learn that these are more acceptable methods of entertainment than other forms of play.

For another version of the Miss Mary Mack hand game see YouTube video “Miss Mary Mack hand clap” uploaded by Tom Cecil. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hP9V0S51GVo

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.

French camp song – À la Pêche aux Moules

Context: 

This piece was collected in a casual interview setting in the informant’s back yard. My informant (JP) was born in Lynon, France, and moved to California in 2002 with his wife for their jobs at Caltech. He is a professor of Seismology, enjoys playing tennis and guitar, has two teenage daughters, and loves to sing old French camp songs he learned as a kid. The following is a song JP learned when he went to summer camp as a child, when he was around 10 years old. He still sings it and taught it to his daughters who like to sing along.

Main Piece:

The following is a transcribed song JP sung:

À la pêche aux moules, moules, moules

Je ne veux plus y aller maman

Les gens de la ville, ville, ville

M’ont pris mon panier maman

Les gens de la ville, ville, ville

M’ont pris mon panier maman

*Repeats from the top*

Translation:

Transliterate translation: 

At the fishing of muscles, muscles, muscles,

I don’t want to go anymore mom,

The people of the city, city, city,

Took my basket mom,

The people of the city, city, city,

Took my basket mom.

Translated version:

At the muscles, muscles, muscles fishing,

I don’t want to go anymore mom,

The people of the city, city, city,

Took my basket mom,

The people of the city, city, city,

Took my basket mom.

Thoughts: 

This was a very cute, upbeat song and I can understand why so many children would sing it together during camp. It’s a song about bullying and going to your mother for comfort, which most people can emotionally connect to. To this day, French school children sing this song, but it has been mass commercialized since the time JP learned it and you can find many Youtube videos of it for children. In my opinion, because of its commercialization, it has lost a lot of its charm.

The Fudgy Wudgy Man

  • Context: The informant (A) is a 15 year old high school student who spends his summers at the Jersey Shore in South New Jersey. He explains a summer job that mainly men, but some women, have that is a staple of South Jersey culture – the Fudgy Wudgy Man. The conversation arose when speaking about what summer jobs for which he should apply. He not only explains the job itself, but the song sung by the Fudgy Wudgy Men. 
  • Text:

A: “The Fudgy Wudgy man… he pushes the ice cream cart… uh… there’s the Spongebob bar, the… uh… Chipwhich, the… uh… um… cookie sandwich… Choco Taco!”

Me: “So he pushes the cart? When?”

A: “On the beach… from like a certain time period. I don’t know when it starts or when it ends.”

Me: “What do you mean? He pushes the cart on the beach?”

A: So… this man, well men… and women… um… he pushes an ice… well like a cart, that has ice in it and it has ice cream in it and he sells the ice cream to people… on the beach…

They go…

‘FUDGY WUDGY… CHOCO TACO… CHIPWICH… HOW ABOUT AN ICE CREAM'”

Me: “And just anyone can do this?”

A: “I think you have to apply for it, but I’m not quite sure…”

Me: “How do you know they’re the Fudgy Wudgy Man?”

A: “‘cus their shirts say ‘The Fudgy Wudgy Man’ and they have a flag that says ‘The Fudgy Wudgy Man’… uh… they also have 2 Ball ScrewBalls, Fudgesicles, Orange Creamsicles, Banana bars, Strawberry bars, Lemon Water Ice, Cherry Water Ice… water… that’s some good water…”

  • Analysis: The Fudgy Wudgy Man is a constant in the Jersey shore culture. The Fudgy Wudgy man sells shirts with the job title and a smiling popsicle graphic. He sings a song about his job to boost morale and notify the children of the ice cream cart. This phenomenon is similar to that of Ice Cream Man and Ice Cream Trucks, but instead the carts are pushed along the beach by hand. Many kids apply for the job in order to get a tan and get buff while walking up and down the beach, but their participation prolongs an essential part of South Jersey culture.

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.

Duck Girl Song

[The subject is CB. Her words are bolded, mine are not.]

Context: CB is one of my friends, and a sophomore student in college. Both of her parents are lawyers in the military, so she was born in Charlottesville, Virginia, but has also lived in Germany, Kansas, and Oregon. The following is a song that she learned when she was nine or ten years old from an American Girl Scout camp in Germany called Camp Lachenwald, which translates to “laughing woods.”

CB:
I’m an old duck rover from out in Montana
Round up them duckies and drive ‘em along
To a flooded corral where we bulldog and brand ‘em
Mosey on home just a-singin’ this song

Singin’ quack quack yippee-yay
Quack quack yippee-yo
Get along, little duckies
Get along real slow
It’s dirty and smelly and really don’t pay
But I’ll be a duck girl ‘til the end of my days.

On Saturday nights, I ride into town
On my short-legged pony with my hat pulled way down
But the boys don’t like duck girls and I can’t figure out why
No cowgirl could be more romantic than I

Singin’ quack quack yippee-yay
And quack quack yippee-yo
Get along, little duckies
Get along real slow
It’s dirty and smelly and really don’t pay
But I’ll be a duck girl ‘til the end of my days.

Thoughts: This song was sung entirely in an exaggerated Southern accent, which I thought was interesting especially because CB learned it while she was in Germany, albeit from other Americans. One thing I noticed was that the song was specific to a gender, but it led me to realize that most of the children’s folk songs I knew growing up were generally sung by girls more often than boys, even when the songs didn’t specify whether the singer was supposed to be a boy or a girl. I also feel that ducks are a common motif in children’s songs and games, like duck-duck-goose and the Five Little Ducks song. Ducks seem to be a symbol that adults associate with children because pictures of them commonly appear on baby clothes, but I suppose children also associate ducks with themselves because the songs they sing and the games they play often involve them.

Childhood Hand Clapping Games (Down by the Banks)

Context:

My informant is a 20 year old student from the University of Southern California, and serves as a Residential Assistant at USC McCarthy Honors College. In this account, she describes a childhood rhyme/game that she commonly played with her friends when she was younger. The way this game is played is for children to sit in a circle with their hands lying open on each others, open palm with the next person’s right hand on top of your left. When the rhyme begins, the first child takes their right hands and crosses it across their body to hit the right hand of the next kid, and the child’s hand who is hit last by the time the rhyme ends is “out.” This conversation took place at McCarthy Honors College one evening, and is actually a continuation of a conversation that we had a few days prior to this one. The initial conversation involved a three more people, in which we all shared our various versions of the rhyme with each other, surprised at how there are different versions. However, for this specific conversation, the one where I focus on only my informant’s version of the rhyme, she and I were alone in a private space. This is a transcription of our conversation, where she is identified as E and I am identified as K.

 

Text:

E: Ok, so,  I was talking with some friends recently and we all remembered like a certain, like, childhood rhyme or game that we used to play, like in elementary school or whatever. And it involved some hand clapping, I will say that, but something we realized is that, like, regionally, the rhyme seems to vary. So like, my friends from the midwest had like a different rendition of it, but like it was only changed by like maybe a few words. So here it as, as I know it:

 

Down by the river by the hanky panky,

Where the bullfrogs jump from bank to banky.

A E I O U bamboo,

Sugar is sweet and so are you,

So bing bing bong you are out.

 

K: In what context would you sing this song?

 

E: Um, I mean it’s definitely of more of like a play time, recess time thing. Like I don’t think it’d be, uh, how shall I say, acceptable to do this in class.

 

K: How did you learn or hear about this little rhyme?

 

E: Oh, probably like kids who are cooler than me on the playground. I mean, I’m just being honest.

 

K: So definitely not formally taught.

 

E: Oh, certainly not. Like my teachers never like taught me.

 

Thoughts:

I thought that this folklore was especially interesting because it ties to my personal experience with this childhood rhyme. I personally did not consider this childhood rhyme folklore until this conversation because I remember being a kid and doing this in music class, where I was formally taught by an institution of how to play this game. I was surprised when I learned that this is normally something that is passed down or performed by other children rather than something that is taught by a music teacher. Furthermore, I was excited by the fact that my version of the rhyme was different:

 

Down by the banks of the hankity pankies,

Where the bullfrogs jump from bank to bankies.

With an Eeps, Ips, Ohps, Ops,

He’s got the lily with the big ‘ker-plop’!

 

For another example of  “Down by the Banks,” please refer to this source:

“Down by the Banks of the Hanky Panky.” King County Library System, The Kingsgate Library, kcls.org/content/down-by-the-banks-of-the-hanky-panky/.

For more examples of children’s hand clapping games, please refer to this source:

Sutton-Smith, Brian, et al., editors. Children’s Folklore: A Source Book. University Press of Colorado, 1999. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt46nskz.

Chinese Restaurant Clapping Game

“So we had a clapping game that my friends and I used to do that involved this one song that I always thought was a little bit weird:

“I went to a Chinese restaurant, to buy a loaf of bread, bread, bread.

They asked me what my name was, and this is what I said, said, said:

‘My name is….choo choo Charlie, I can do karate, punch ’em in the stomach,

Oops, I’m sorry! Please don’t tell my mommy!

Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Freeze!'”

Context: The informant, ER, is an Asian-American student. She really enjoyed playing games with her friends when she was growing up in California; some of these included clapping games like this, along with making lip-sync dance videos. ER is a very popular girl, and wanted to fit in with the other girls, which includes participating in this game. ER explains that she uncomfortable with singing along with this song. Being an Asian-American, she felt that this song was quite racist and drew from various stereotypes in order create a catchy song to sing along to.

Analysis: This song follows other types of children’s songs that are common and widespread. It has catchy, simple rhythm with equally catchy lyrics. In this case, it involves repetition of certain lyrics that are necessary for clapping games. Towards the end of song, the lyrics become a bit nonsensical, and do not really provide any real connection with the original theme of the song. Even the first line of the song make no real sense since no one would normally go to a Chinese restaurant to purchase a loaf of bread. However, rational lyrics are not the main purpose of children songs, but rather about parodying other songs, or making fun of strict components of society.

However, probably the more telling part of this song is the slight racial insensitiveness of the lyrics. In this case, the lyrics are playing on stereotypes of Chinese people, and also equating them with other Asians, including Japanese people and Indian people. For many children, it is common for them to not be able to differentiate between different groups of East Asians, or can tend to be more racially insensitive. Due to this, it means that when these children come up with these rhymes and games, they will be less inhibited by potentially insensitive lyrics when trying to find rhyming words and catchy lyrics.

For ER, calling out her friends because of a racist song had too many consequences. From the social side, ER did not want to say that she did not want to participate in the game, which would create a rift between herself and her friends due to a mere song. Children’s social structures and relationships tend to be very fragile and complex, and due to this, telling your friends that you do not want to participate in a favorite game would be seen as an insult. Due to this fear, many kids will not tell their friends about something that bothers them personally in order to maintain their friendships and keep their social standing.

A Song for Finals

“Right before finals, the band usually plays at Primal, so we will play right outside Leavey Library, to like cheer people up before finals and get people hype for studying. The songs that we play are usually pretty variable, but at the end, we always play ‘Conquest’ at the end and scream ‘Beat the Finals’.” 

Context: The informant, EK, is a member of the USC Trojan Marching Band. We were having a conversation about the strange rituals and customs of the band that are specific to that one student group. This ritual is an unofficial one, as in years past they have gotten in trouble with the university, however the band is trying to bring back the tradition, with and without official approval. EK really enjoys participating in this ritual as she feels that it really exemplifies the motivating aspect of the band; she also loves seeing the students’ faces when the band starts to play

Analysis: While this may seem like a simple tradition, this ritual demonstrates the role and importance that the Trojan marching band plays for the students at USC. The band’s role is not only limited to promoting school spirit at football games and other sporting events, but also to energize and boost morale for the entire student body. As someone that has witnessed this performance while in the library, hearing the amazing band play uplifting and motivating songs brought joy to the hundreds of stressed and overwhelmed students in the library who had been studying for days. This impact shows how the band’s culture and traditions affect the people in their community, and is capable of reminding the students that there is more to USC then just working.

Along with this, the choice of song that they play at the end of their performance demonstrates the meaning and overall significance of the performance. The song “Conquest” is usually played by the USC marching band when the USC football team beats their opponent to celebrate beating the enemy. By performing this song, the studying students will get the same feeling that they would feel when the USC football team wins. They suddenly feel a sense of confidence and increased morale and ready to vanquish their enemy: finals. Along with this, the screaming of “beat the finals” at the end of the performance echoes the sentiment that finals is something that we all should put our effort into trying to win our finals by doing our best.