Author Archives: Austin Taylor


Song: Happy Birthday Variation

“Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, you look like a monkey, and you smell like one too.”

Connor explained to me that he learned this song at his elementary school whenever his class sang happy birthday to one of the students. He said that he learned it at Meramec Elementary School in Clayton, Missouri where he is from. However, he told me that his friends from other areas knew the song as well. A good time to perform this song is at a friend’s birthday party, where many children can get together and sing this version. He knows of other ways to continue the song but he said that this is the most popular between him and all of his friends. Parents tend to laugh at the children for singing this version because it reminds them of their own childhood when they used to sing different versions of songs to joke around.

According to Connor, the students sing as loud as they can so that everyone can hear their version over the other. He said that if people can hear the original version of the song, then their joke is not working. The goal is to embarrass the birthday kid on his or her own birthday. By telling the child that he or she looks like a monkey and smells like one too, Connor said that their friend will feel embarrassed as his or her face will hopefully turn red. But, it ends up being just a big joke for everyone to enjoy.

Connor thinks that this revision of the happy birthday song is a funny way to wish someone a happy birthday. He believes that there are many different versions but this is the one he knows the best. I agree with Connor in the sense that this joke is supposed to make people laugh. It is not supposed to mean that the child literally looks and smells like a monkey. Instead, it just makes him or her laugh. Birthdays are all about having fun with friends and family. This joke helps add to the excitement of turning another year older as a child because it gets everyone involved in the song. This song is great for adults too because although they are older now, the tune will help them remember their days as child singing similar birthday songs.


Connor Taylor, 7, Male

Caucasian, English, Student

Clayton, MO

20 March 2008

Song: Jingle Bells Revised Chorus

“Jingle bells, Batman smells, Robin laid an egg, Bat mobile lost a wheel, and joker took ballet.”

Connor advised me that he learned this song at his elementary school when he was around five or six years old. He learned the remake of the tune “jingle bells” in Clayton, Missouri, where his school is located. He said he learned it when he overheard many students and even teachers performing the song instead of singing the original lyrics. When I asked him when it is performed, he told me that it is primarily sang in the winter months, especially around Christmas time when many classes are singing holiday jingles in their music classes. He said most students have learned this song and that it is sang regularly to make people laugh and have fun. The rest of the song is performed with quiet voices and proper lyrics but the chorus, which is the remade folk version, is sung loud for all to hear.

When I asked Connor what this song meant to him, he said it really did not have a meaning. Instead, it was just used to poke fun at the classic jingle bells song. Instead of singing the “boring” lyrics as he mentioned, students like to sing different versions to make the performance more exciting. He said it uses comic book characters because that is what students his age are familiar with. If they used any other characters, he said, it would not be as much fun.

The song basically makes no sense as it randomly fluctuates from characters and ideas. It does not go in any particular order as it seems it was only created to rhyme with the original version of the song. In my opinion, the song is just a way for elementary school students to feel rebellious by singing a different version. The song has no meaning but they sing it to stand out and be different from the rest of the group. There is no harm in singing this song but it is usually only sung when students are having fun. In a serious performance in front of parents, I do not believe they would sing this version. Overall, this song encourages students to have fun, but only whenever the timing allows for it.

This song can also be seen in American Children’s Folklore, which is a book written by Simon J. Bronner that discusses many types of folklore. Within this book, there are also many different versions of the “Jingle Bells” tune.

Annotation: Bronner, Simon J. American Children’s Folklore. Little Rock: August House Inc. 1988.


Song: Revised tune of Jingle Bells

“Late one morning, early that night, two dead boys began no fight, back to back, they faced each other, through their swords, they shot each other, two dead policeman heard the noise, and started to chase the two dead boys, one went around the corner in the middle of the block, the other ran up into the short building in a vacant lot.”

Terry told me that he learned this version of the jingle bells tune when he was a child at Catholic grade school in a town of about thirty thousand people in the middle of the cornfields in Iowa. He said that he and his buddies were always teaching each other these little songs that they had learned from other people. When he was a child, they would always play little games and sing songs to keep themselves entertained throughout the day. The students would sing loud and jump around to make sure that whoever was around watched their performance. Terry told me that this song is not primarily sung during the winter months like the original jingle bells tune. Instead, it was sung all throughout the year whenever the children wanted to sing it. However, he did say that a good time to sing this song would be at recess, where many of the kids are playing outside on the playground. This was a good time because students were not in the classroom so they were not disrupting class by singing it.

Terry says that this song really does not have any meaning to it. Instead, it just rhymes and flows nicely within the song itself. He said that he really never thought about what the words actually meant in broader themes. He just always thought it was clever but it did not make any sense whatsoever. He thinks that at this age, kids are always relating their stories and songs to things they are interested in.

I agree with Terry along the lines that this version of jingle bells does not make much sense. However, I do believe that the reason the children sang this song was to feel rebellious by singing about death and cops. A very common game amongst youth is “cops and robbers.” The purpose of this game is that the cops are chasing the robbers with toy guns and handcuffs. So, there is a possibility that this song helps reiterate that purpose. As Terry mentioned, kids like to sing songs about activities they are interested in. By singing about dead boys and policeman, they are showing their ability to relate songs to games. Children always say “you’re dead” and “I shot you” while playing cops and robbers. I think this song helps reflect their liking of fake shooting games because it gives them a chance to play and sing with their friends.

Tradition – Pamplona, Spain

Tradition: Running of the Bulls

Pablo’s Description:

“Well to me, the running of the bulls is very important because it happens in my hometown. It’s something that I’ve been growing up with and it is very interesting to see how it has developed since I was three or four years old. It’s become a tourist attraction now as we have over twenty thousand Americans that come over to party because it has become more of a party thing. It is a party scene but is also traditional as there is folklore behind it. The actual running of the bulls comes from when my city was founded by the Romans. They constructed the city on the basis of a hill with streets leading up into the central area. That way, for generations to come they had the cathedral and important buildings in the center of the city. The bull arena is right there next to everything else. Back in the 19th century, whenever we would have a bull fight, they would have to carry the bulls from the river all the way up the hill to the arena. The shepherds would bring the bulls, because bulls are not aggressive as we think they are; they don’t just go attack people until they feel threatened. But, people started running in front of them and it became a more fun and growing tradition. Then, the city decided it was too big to do spontaneously so they actually determined a road that the run will follow, which became more popular. Hemingway came over from America and increased its popularity to Americans, which is why it has become a large party for everyone. It’s a traditional event for me to remember our history but it has become a drinking event for most.”

When I asked Pablo about the running of the bulls, he described to me the history and the folklore behind it. He explained how it originated and the tradition it has built ever since. According to him, the events take place from the sixth of July until the fourteenth. Since he was little, he always went to the festivals and took part in all of the activities. He takes part in the running now as he is older and says that he plans to continue to do it each year. When I asked Pablo to describe the festival, he told me that it was basically a twenty four hour party with tourists drinking all throughout the night. He said there is traditional folk music that is played along with many folk dances to entertain everyone. There are lights and people everywhere as everyone takes place in this festival.

To Pablo, the running of the bulls is really special to him because it symbolizes a lot of history and the memories he has of his city. He said that he gets really sad whenever he can not attend the running and hopes that he is able to go this year. It represents a lot of Spanish culture as the festivals as well as the running of the bulls show the various traditions of Spain. This event has grown so much that over two million people annually attend the running of the bulls.

I agree with Pablo in the sense that the running of the bulls represents Spanish culture. It shows how their folklore helped construct the foundation of a city as well as a country. The event brings the country as well as others together to take part in the running. Although I believe there is great tradition involved with the event, I think it has become more of a party scene where thousands of people are socializing during the week. However, the folklore is important to the people who live in the community like Pablo and it shows with all the great memories they have from it.

Legend – Pamplona, Spain

Legend: Man with the Bag

“If you behave badly, the man with the bag is going to come and take you away. In the Netherlands, a Bavarian man would attack the Spaniards around the time when Spain had control over much of the world in the age of exploration. The man with the bag would come and kill Spaniards so that they would lose their control. The man with the bag would come and kidnap children if they misbehaved.”

According to Pablo, the man with the bag legend was known all throughout Spain. He said he heard it from his mother in Pamplona whenever his mom thought he misbehaved. She would always tell him that if he continued to cause trouble, the man with the bag would come and get him. All the children knew who this legend was so they were all deeply afraid of him. Whenever their parents told them that the man with the bag was coming, they usually stopped misbehaving. The man with the bag legend scared Pablo for much of his life as he always thought that if he got into trouble, he would be taken away from his family. He said this influenced him and other friends to act better in front of parents.

Pablo said his history teacher told him that the legend came from the time Spain was in the age of exploration. At that time, Spain was exploring the Americas and all over the world. In order to slow the exploration of the Spaniards, the Bavarian man would slaughter everyone he came across. Therefore, the man with the bag was feared throughout all of Spain.

According to Pablo, this legend helps him treasure his family to the fullest, whether or not the man with the bag is real. He doesn’t know if it is true or not but it helps him realize that his mother is looking out for him by telling him to behave. Most kids like to disobey their parents but this legend helped him listen to his mom in all aspects because he was scared the man with the bag would come and get him. Because of this, he usually would do anything she told him to do.

I believe this legend helps parents have more control of their children. By telling them that an evil man with the bag is going to come and capture them, the children will behave appropriately. Children are easily scared by unknown forces. By threatening them with the man with the bag story, the children will do whatever their parents tell them to do. Additionally, I think this legend represents the Spanish culture because it came from their age of exploration. It shows that although civilizations can try to gain absolute power, there will always be a force slowing them down, like the man in the bag in this case.