Residence: Torrance, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 3/24/2014
Primary Language: English
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.
“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.