The informant is a 20-year old college sophomore at University of Michigan majoring in industrial and systems engineering. She went to sleep-away camp for several years and was excited to share some of her fond memories of it with me. One such memory is “the Bagel Song.”
“Bagels, doo doo doo
Bagels, doo doo doo
Bagels on Mars, Bagels on Venus
I got bagels in my…..
Bagels, doo doo doo
Bagels, doo doo doo
Bagels on the pier, bagels on the dock
I got bagels on my….
Bagels, doo doo doo
Bagels, doo doo doo
(The next person makes up a stanza similar to the first two, with provocative lyrics that make the listener think of something dirty, but that ends in NOSE”
Interviewer: “Where did you learn the Bagel Song?”
Informant: “I remember my counselor one year teaching it to me and a few other campers. We thought it was totally hilarious. When I was a counselor a few years ago, I taught it to my campers too.”
Interviewer: “Where would you guys sing the song?”
Informant: “Oh gosh, all the time. Um, we would sing it when camp songs were song. Like at bonfires and before mealtimes when everyone was together waiting to eat. We would tease the cute male counselors with it too…”
Interviewer: “Did your counselor who taught you the song say where she learned it?”
Informant: “No. We never asked. But I do have a friend who went to an all-boys camp in Wisconsin who told me they had a variation of the song they would sing.
Interviewer: “Do you remember how the variation went?”
Informant: “Hmm. I think it was the same general principle. I think what was different was that the boys said “Bacon” instead of “bagel”? I’m not entirely sure though; it was a long time ago that I talked to my friend about it!”
I see the Bagel song as a humorous song dealing with taboos of sex and sexuality. The song is especially funny because it makes the listener the one with the “dirty mind”, not the singer, as it is the listener who thinks the singer is going to make an obscene reference.
Oring talks about Children’s folklore (I would consider “The Bagel Song” fitting into this category) a good deal in Folk Groups and Folklore Genres. Ideas of childhood have been purified for a long time in American society, and the oppressiveness of the controlled environment in which children reside in can partially explain their dealing with the sexuality taboo, along with other taboos.
My informants are group of hungry members of the USC Track and Field Team. As a very tight knit group they often spend time in the morning eating breakfast together before class. In this particular instance while waiting for their food to be ready, this group broke out into the ‘Sausage Song”.
Members of the group had heard of the song through different outlets, some by listening to other groups perform it and others encountered recorded videos of groups performing the song on the internet, however the members of the group knew to begin participating after hearing the distinct beat and opening line of the song which begins like this…
One person begins beating on a nearby surface to create a beat. That same individual begins the rap/song by saying “Eggs, bacon, grits…”
The rest of the members in the group reply after grits by saying “…Sausage!”
Following the group declaration of sausage, the members each go around making their own rhymes to the beat, all ending in the word sausage, until most or all members have said a rhyme. For example, in the case of the track and field members, one of the girls in the group’s line was “I be at the parties twerkin’ on that sausage!”
Typically the rhymes that are made are crude or sexual in nature, as the word sausage is utilized as a euphemism for male genitals. The use of the word sausage as a euphemism is part of what contributes to the humor of the song. In this particular instance it served as a means to pass time, and was performed at a moment that had relation to the context of the scenario, the members performed the “Sausage Song” while waiting for breakfast. The performing of the song also serves a purpose in letting participants identify who has the best rhyming skills out of the group, because generally each person tries to outdo and increase the humor of the rhyme of the person who had gone before them. The game easily demonstrates the variability and widespread nature of folklore. Though the introduction to the “Sausage Song” remains the same, people adapt the performance to their particular liking and in relation to their environment and personal experiences. Though it is a relatively crude game and song that should probably not be performed in public, it serves a purpose of bringing together groups of people and providing entertainment value to those who perform it and to the listeners.Sausage Song
My (hold note) mommy said if I’d be good she’d send me to the store,
she said she’d bake a chocolate cake if I would sweep the floor,
she said if I would make the bed and help her mind the phone,
she would send me out to get a chocolate ice cream cone.
And so I did
the things she said,
I even helped her make the bed.
Then I went out,
just me alone,
to get a chocolate ice cream cone.
Now (hold note) on my way a-comin’ home I stumbled on a stone,
and need I tell you that I dropped
my chocolate ice cream cone.
A little doggie came along and took a great big lick (slurping sound),
and then I hit that mean ole doggie with a little stick.
And he bit me
where I sat down
and he chased me all over town.
And now I’m lost,
can’t find my home,
it’s all because of a chocolate, chocolate, chocolate ice cream cone.
The informant was my father, a 49-year-old engineer who currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, but who grew up in the area surrounding Austin, Texas. The song is one that his mother used to sing to him and his siblings when they were little. The song was primarily sung right before bed, as well as occasionally on long road trips. The informant says his mother would sing it to the children almost every night, sometimes “perfunctorily,” sometimes smiling and adding “extra ‘chocolate, chocolate, chocolate’s’ on the end.” The informant sees it as a mix of a “bizarre lost kid fairy tale” and a “moral lesson for young kids growing up,” the lesson being, “don’t go out on your own or, you know, you might get lost and never find your way home again.”
This song was collected while I was home for Spring Break and performed in my living room. It was interesting to me because my father also used to sing it to me and my sister when we were children because, “when you’re a parent, you’re looking for, you know, the things to pass down and it was one of my favorite songs as a child.” The tune of the song makes it seem fun and harmless, but there is a dark undertone about the lyrics that I recognized, even when I was growing up. Looking at it now, I think it is less of a moral lesson, and more of a lesson to children about the random, horrible things that can happen to you when you are not expecting them. None of the events that take place are really the narrator’s fault (other than being chased by a dog after he hits it with a stick), and yet the narrator still ends up lost and alone. It is a dark reflection on everyday life hiding within a song for children, as is often the case with old songs and stories created for children.
Have you ever slept at the foot of the bed
when the weather was a-wizzin’ cold?
The wind was a whistlin’ through the cracks
the moon was a-yeller as gold
You’d give your good warm mattress up
to Aunt Lizzy and Uncle Fred
Too many kin folks on a bad night
so you went to the foot of the bed.
I always liked it when the kin folks came
and the children brought brand new games
See how fat all the old folks was,
learn all the babies’ names.
They’d eat biscuits and custard and chicken pie,
they all got Sunday fed.
But you knew darn well when the nighttime fell
you was headed for the foot of the bed.
They say some folks don’t know what it is
havin’ company all over the place.
Fightin’ for cover on a winter night,
big foot stickin’ in your face.
Cold toe nails scratchin’ your back,
footboard scrubbin’ your head
I’ll tell the world you ain’t missed a thing
Never sleepin’ at the foot of the bed.
The informant was my father, a 49-year-old engineer who currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, but who grew up in the area surrounding Austin, Texas. His parents owned various pieces of rural Texas land, ending with a cattle ranch an hour outside of Austin. This is a song his father would sing to him and his siblings. This was not a “nighttime song,” because his job wasn’t to put them to bed. Often, his father would sing it “on the road, whilin’ time away driving to the ranch.” He says his father had forgotten most of it and was toying with it when they first started singing it together and “over the years, we had worked out what the entire song was.” The informant has no idea where it came from, but he says he tried to “consciously collect the songs” from his parents and wanted to “know the full version of every song that they sang to us.” He says his mother would listen to his father singing it and say “’Yeah that’s pretty much exactly the way it was, growing up.’ That this was sung as a joke, but that this was actually a real practice, that you’d have a full size bed in the house and two kids, or three or four kids, sleeping next to each other in the bed, and they weren’t actually long enough to fill up the bed so you’d lay another one cross-wise across the bottom of the bed . . . and, uh, you know, that was always the worst place to sleep. You know, in a cold, a drafty house, you didn’t want to be on the floor.” He likes that it feels like a joke, but that it is actually just a part of Southern culture.
This song was collected while I was home for Spring Break and performed in my living room. It was interesting to me because my father also used to sing it to me and my sister when we were children. I think it is meant to be an entertaining representation of something that happened occasionally in the South, although I don’t think it happened as recently as the informant thinks. On the other hand, his mother grew up in extreme poverty, so there is a chance that what she said about it was true. I think it was mainly composed for comic effect and represented an exaggerated version of something that happened among poor Southern families at one time.
In fact, this song has been performed by country singers since at least 1949. Little Jimmy Dickens released it as a single that year (“A-Sleeping at the Foot of the Bed”), although it was quite different from the song that was presented to me. In Dickens’s version there are two extra verses, the verses are in a different order, and many of the words are different. The song is recognizable, even though the tune has been somewhat changed. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_tkEotkyjHU
Dickens, James. "A-Sleeping at the Foot of the Bed." Raisin' the Dickens. Columbia Records, 1949. CD.
Informant: Take a shot, take a shot! Take a god-damned shot! If you can’t take a shot like a/an [sorority nickname] can, then you shouldn’t have a shot in your motherfucking hand! Take a shot!
The informant is a student at the University of Southern California. She is a member of a sorority, and was born and raised in Chicago, IL.
The informant first learned this drinking song, or chant, on the night after she received a bid from her sorority. She and her new “sisters” gathered in the largest bedroom of her sorority house, poured shots of Fireball (a popular brand of cinnamon flavored whiskey) and preformed the chant before knocking back their drinks. The informant has since preformed the chant only a handful of times—all occurred with other sorority sisters before a night of partying, and sometimes during. The informant claims she has also heard members of other USC sororities sing the chant with their own sorority’s nickname in place of the informant’s. Nevertheless, the song stands a symbol of initiation into a sorority; only members can preform it.
Informant: When my grandma moved from the reservation in Oklahoma—the one where, like, you know, they were forced to go after the Trail of Tears and stuff—to California, people were mean to her and her family. And the other Choctaw Freeman. So they’d sing this little song, like:
“One, two, three, four, five, six, seven,
all the Okies go to heaven.
When we get up there;
we’ll sing: hell, hell,
you’re gonna go to hell,
all the Californians are gonna go to hell!”
The informant is a student at the University of Southern California. She is from an “eccentric” family. Her grandmother is Choctaw Freedman (formerly enslaved African Americans who joined the Native American Choctaws in Oklahoma) and has passed on many of her traditions and beliefs to the informant.
This song, the informant told me, is something her grandmother and other Choctaw Freedmen preformed together when they came to California and faced prejudice. The song is colored with equal parts resentment for Californians and pride in the Choctaw Freedmen identity.
Informant “J” is a 19 year male old college student at the University of Southern California, he is studying Neuroscience and is a Sophomore at the time of this interview. He was born in Danville, California to a Jewish father and as a result J has regular exposure to Jewish traditions and customs. Though he does involve himself with Jewish traditions, he does not practice Judaism and considers himself non-religious.
“J: One thing my family and I like to do during our Passover Seders is that we have this, at the end of the Seder, we have this dinner and we all like to sing our own song which is called “The Fishman Seder” song, I don’t know exactly how it goes, because we have always had the sheet but it started…
“Wouldn’t it be greater than to be at Fishman Seder, or a Fishman Seder on Meeesssaaa ” (audio attached)
J: And it’s really fun and we’d pound the table and everything and it’s just something that we’d do after every single Seder dinner, which we like to have a lot of our, a lot of our kind of traditions, based on a kind of Jewish Holidays. Granted we tend to go off of my Mom’s religion, we tend to go off Protestant, but a lot of the things we do as families we do during Hanukkah or Passover.
Me: Alright… um, the Fishman song, do your Grandparents, or do any other previous generations sing that, or did you guys originate that?
J: So I think it was actually my Grandparents who came up with it, beacuse the first time we sung it, it was with our Grandparents and they pulled out a piece of paper and they said “we came up with this new song”. They came up with it with my uncle and aunt as well. They all liked it so they were the first Fishman to sing the song.
Me: How long ago was that?
J: I don’t know, before I was born I know.
Me: Do you guys sing it when your Grandparents aren’t around?
J: No it’s sort of only when we’re all together, not unless they’re at Seder with us.”
Although “J” informs me that the tune is a familiar one and not a Fishman original, I am not sure of the origin of the song. I welcome anyone with any idea where the tune might be from (from the audio clip above) to comment on this posting. The Fishman Seder song seems to act as a celebration of the family as a whole, and acts as a way to celebrate being part of the Fishman family (“…be greater than to be at Fishman Seder”) as well as their coming together. The family working to build the tune together, as “J” mentions happened before he was born, as well as the families continued insistence to sing the song during Jewish Seder supports this conclusion. As Seder is a Jewish Passover tradition, and as the family is unified during this event, it can help to both reinforce their Jewish identity and its connection to their shared experience as a Family.
As the event is sung at the end of Seder, it may also act to transition from one Passover event to another, or to transition into the end of the evening. Either way the event seems to act to transition during a liminal period of the event while also reinforcing the sense of community the Seder dinner builds, as if to sort of epitomize the event they are concluding.
The informant’s family originated in Samoa, his parents were born and raised there before traveling and moving into the United States. He takes many visits to Samoa and is very in touch with his Samoan heritage and culture. He shared some common folklore with me that he could think of off of the top of his head.
“During a time of a huge famine and starvation spread across Samoa a blind grandma and granddaughter were put out of there family because they were seen as kind of a burden. They decided to jump into the ocean to cast their fates upon sea because it was giving and caring. Magic turned them into a turtle and a shark. The grandma and granddaughter wanted to find a new home. They traveled for a long time and were constantly turned away from potential homes until they found the shores of Vaitogi. Vertigo had high cliffs and a rough coastline, the shores were occupied by a compassionate and generous group of people. The old woman and her granddaughter turned back into their human form. They were welcomed by the people of Vaitogi. They fed them and offered that they make this village their new home. The old woman decided to make it her home, but she felt a connection to the sea as if it were her home too. She couldn’t stay on land, so she told the villagers that she and her granddaughter had to go back to the sea. She said that they would make village waters their permanent home. She gave the villagers a song to sing from the rocks and a promise that when they sang the song she and her granddaughter would come to visit. They returned to the sea and turned into their turtle and shark forms. To this day, the people of Vaitogi still sing the song and many villagers will tell you that they have personally seen the Turtle and Shark. To each of them the legend is as alive today as it has been.”
The informant also told me that there is a song that goes along with the legend, he said that he doesn’t know it and only certain people in the village of Vaitogi are able to know the song.
This legend of Samoa is different because it goes against the Samoan value of family by throwing the grandma and her granddaughter out of the house. However, this legend depicts that it is hard to be accepted into the different samoan communities but when you are accepted they treat you as family and give you the upmost respect. This legend helps to show the culture of the people of Samoa and how they do things. The grandmother wanted to be a part of the ocean so she left the village that accepted her but lived in the nearby shores and visited only when a song was sang. Also, this legend shows the importance of animals in this society. The grandmother and granddaughter were both transformed into two common sea creatures, and shark and a turtle. The informant wasn’t sure why but it is important to the story. The informant said that this story originated in Vaitogi by its natives, but he heard it from his grandma.
My friend was born in Sweden to a Swedish father and American mother, but moved to the United States as a child, so she sat down with me and told me about the different holidays that are celebrated in Sweden. Some were holidays she had celebrated frequently, while others we less important to her, but she still knew about from her family. Since midsummer includes children in the celebration, she had fond memories of past holidays in Sweden.
“Then we have midsommar, which is midsummers, it’s like the middle and it’s usually the summer solstice and that’s where it’s like the typical maypole, it’s almost like a cross with two rings and kids will have strings and dance around the maypole. And that’s also fertility”
Q: Have you celebrated this?
“I’ve done it ever since I was little. Usually it’s like the entire community gets together and there’s a central maypole for that community. So it’s not like it’s a fair, but everybody comes out and they picnic. And what the girls are supposed to do, is you’re supposed to collect seven different types of wildflowers and you make wreaths, like crowns, that you wear and you wear it all day and the girls usually wear white dresses and you’re supposed to jump over five different fences, and what you usually do is eat strawberries, strawberries and cream are like, in season, so you usually have strawberry cake and stuff like that. And you’re outside and you play games and it’s really, really fun. There’s specific songs and dances that you do while you dance around the Maypole. One of them is små grodorna, which means little frogs, and you jump over people…it’s for kids but it’s really, really cute. But when you get older, it’s like you drink and, but everybody still dresses up and it’s really pretty. But what girls are supposed to do is you put the wreath under your pillow and then you dream about the man you’re going to marry. I really remember actually making the crowns, because my mom was really good at doing it, because you have to like, braid, because they’re like wildflowers, you don’t buy something, you braid the flowers to create these really pretty things. It’s super fun and it lasts throughout the day”
“I don’t wanna be a chicken, I don’t wanna be a duck, so shake my butt”
My informant learned it from a couple girls in second grade who made fun of him and shook their butts at them. He said that it feels like it means an insult because you’re calling the other person a chicken/duck. He remembers being very offended.
This was a song that was sung from time to time among young kids.
This seems to be the start of young children learning about gender differences, and a way to cope with them. One could even argue that this was a way that girls started learning about their own sexuality since the butt is a fairly sexualized part on a female’s body. Perhaps this was just a way that kids could bond within their own gender.