Bo Bo Ski Rotten


The informant, Katie, is a childhood friend of the interviewer. They grew up next door to each other and have been friends for sixteen years.


Katie discusses a childhood game that her and the interviewer used to play with their friends on the playground in Elementary and Middle School. 


“We would all sit in a circle at recess, usually a huge group of us. Each person would put their left hand under the person sitting next to them’s right hand, so if we were sitting next to each other I’d put my left hand under your right hand. Then with the right hand, you put your right hand over the other person’s left hand. We all sing a song and on each beat you take your right hand and swing it around to hit, or more so clap, the person next to you’s hand left hand. For example, when person A’s hand is hit by person Z, then person A must hit the person B’s hand, then person B must hit person C, and so on and so forth, going on in a continuous circle. It’s basically hot potato, but you are passing a hit, instead of a potato. 

The song goes like this [verse one]: Bo bo ski rotten totten / I- I say boys are rotten / Itty bitty rotten totten / Bo bo ski rotten totten / Bo bo ski rotten totten

Then the tempo speeds up and you go really fast.

 Verse two goes: Mickey mouse had a house / Donald Duck messed it up / Who will pay the consequences.

Then it speeds up even more.

Verse three goes: Y O U spells you and you are out.

You do not want to get your hand hit on the word ‘out’, otherwise you will be out of the game. So you can try and move your hand really fast to not get out. If the person who was supposed to hit you, hits their own hand instead, because you moved yours off of there’s fast enough, than that person is out instead of you. It’s a really fun, competitive game. We played it a lot at girl scouts too. In middle school, if boys ever played with us we would change the line “boys are rotten” to “fish are rotten” so that the boys would think we were cool and didn’t hate them.”


This game was really fun, I remember playing it a lot. It is interesting how much folklore happens on the school playground. This is just one example of many hand / song game combos we would play. I’m not sure how we originally learned about it. I assume, we learned it from some girl on the playground, who learned it from someone else, who learned it from someone else, ect. When I moved from Chicago to Los Angeles for college I found myself one night talking with my LA friends about this game. They knew the general premise, but had different words for the song that I can no longer remember. This was fascinating to me as it shows how folklore is so malleable and can adapt and change with every person who tells it.