Folk Music – USA

Just a boy

And a girl

And a little canoe

With the moon shinin’ all around

And they talked

And they talked

‘Til the moon was dim

He said, “You better kiss me or get out and swim!”

So what ya gonna do

In a little canoe

With the moon shinin’ all a’

Boats floatin’ all a’

Girls swimming all around?

Oh yeah? Yeah!

Get out and swim!

Sydney told me she learned this song in elementary school from her mother when she participated in Girl Scouts. She learned the song in Houston, Texas, but believes that it was probably derived from a standard Girl Scouts handbook of songs to learn and teach. She said that she has no idea where her mother learned the song herself, but suspects that many other Girl Scouts troops sang similar (if not the same) songs as well. Since her mother was the leader of her Girl Scout troop, everyone in her troop learned it as well.

Sydney said that the song is usually sung in a variety of contexts. For example, the song can be used as a Girl Scouts meeting opener activity and is often sung to create a festive and lively atmosphere. The song can also be sung around a campfire, when all the girls are gathered around and settling down for the night. However, Sydney said that her troop usually sang the song when they were marching. Whether marching down the street or through the woods, the troop would sing this song in conjunction with a collection of other Girl Scouts affiliated songs. She said that the best time to sing it would be in a group with a troop of young girls. It is usually sung to consume time and to conjure up a fun and light-hearted atmosphere.

Sydney does not think the song is very difficult to understand. She feels that the lyrics spell out the meaning of the song. In her opinion, the song is about a boy and a girl, who row out into a body of water. They are having a good time, until night falls and they have to go back. The boy demands that the girl kiss him or else he will not row her back to shore. Instead of falling prey to the boy’s advances, the girl jumps aboard and swims to shore. Sydney says that this is a prime example of a female empowerment song for impressionable young girls. It says that boys like girls, but girls do not necessarily like boys. Also, she says that part of the reasons she still remembers the song is because it also gives young girls a glimpse into the future, especially at an age when they still do not understand male/female relations. She says that now, her reaction would probably be to just kiss the guy instead of swimming to shore.

I agree with Sydney in that this song is relatively simple and straightforward in meaning. But besides being a generally uplifting song, I think it is used most often used in communal settings in order to create a sense of bonding amongst young girls. It is targeted at a young age group because the song draws upon their shared naiveté of boy/girl relations and instills a sense of female independence. The fact that it is being promoted by an organization that stresses female leadership is no coincidence. It teaches the girls to be strong and not be pressured into giving in to male authority. The song also reveals the commonly held belief of males’ desires of female attention and at what lengths they will go to get it. It warns the young girls of these sexual encounters and tells them not to blindly follow male dominance and to stand up for themselves.