Jump-Rope Rhymes

Background Information:

My informant is my 9-year-old cousin from Dublin, Ireland. She recounted the kinds of games her and her friends would play on the schoolyard, which were quite similar to those I would have played as a child. One in particular was popular at the time we spoke, and that was the rhyme “Scales,” as she called it. This was particularly prevalent as it involved the use of two jump-ropes, which separated the older girls at school from the younger girls, who only used one rope and therefore could not play this game. My cousin is particularly fond of jump-rope and confidently calls herself the best “skipper” (skipping being the Irish term for jump-rope) in her class, if not on the whole playground, and therefore told me that she could absolutely be trusted as a very reliable source of the best skipping rhymes.

Main Piece:

My informant is my 9-year-old cousin from Dublin, Ireland. She recounted to me a popular skipping rhyme that her and her friends would often play on the schoolyard. This involved the use of two ropes held parallel to each other off the ground, about a foot apart. The skipper would jump between them and outside them in the same rhythm as the chant that goes as follows: “England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales. Inside, outside, inside, scales.” The person would jump in the manner as follows: right foot between the ropes, left foot outside them; left foot between the ropes, right foot outside; 180 degree turn and the same thing repeated; then both feet inside the ropes, both feet outside, and both feet inside again. Finally, on the word “scales” the person jumping would land one foot on each of the ropes and force them to the ground. As people missed the ropes at the end, they would be “out” of the game, and the ropes would be brought progressively higher until one person would win. Due to the short nature of the rhyme, this would not normally take too long.


Performance Context: This was described to me over the phone, due to the distance between me and my informant. However, I already understood what she was talking about as I had played this game as a child. Therefore this appears to be a particularly long-lasting skipping game, as they tend to die out after a little while, in my experience.


My Thoughts:

Immediately, I was struck by the geographically specific nature of the rhyme as being located in England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. Although I do not know if this rhyme exists anywhere else but Ireland, it would be interesting to find out if this rhyme is evident in Britain, and if it is an oikotype of a larger rhyme in this sense. The song is also more of a chant, with no tune, and a rhythm of 1-2 1-2 1-2 3, which makes it seem like a marching song. This would also be appropriate for a skipping game that involved two ropes, and two movements around them, considering the 1-2 beat. Folk games and folk-music are often passed down amongst children, and many playground games stem from folklore and gradually change over time. This song, considering its’ geographical ties to Britain and Ireland, seems a particularly interesting case, in the sense that it does not include Northern Ireland, which may suggest that it predates the partition of Ireland, or perhaps that it just fit the rhyme scheme better.