Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: April 20th, 2013
Primary Language: English
This is a children’s hand-clapping game that my informant played when she was in elementary school with other girls. The hand motion is similar to paddy cake; the participants’ right hands meet, then each participant claps their own hands together, then the left hands meet, and then it repeats. Some specific lines go with specific movements: at “operator”, the participants put their hand up by their ear with their thumb up and pinky sticking out, mimicking a telephone; at “dark dark dark”, there is just continual clapping with the word for emphasis; at “bra bra bra”, it is the same thing as “dark dark dark”.
“Miss Lucy had a steamboat, the steamboat had a bell
Miss Lucy went to heaven, and the steamboat went to
Hello operator, please give me number nine
And if you disconnect me, I will chop off your
Behind the ‘fridgerator, there laid a piece of glass
Miss Lucy sat upon it, and it went right up her
Ask me no more questions, please tell me no more lies
The boys are in the bathroom, zipping up their
Flies are in the meadow, the bees are in the park
Miss Lucy and her boyfriend are kissing in the
Dark dark dark!
The dark is like the movies, the movie’s like a show
The show is like a tv show, and that is all I know
I know I know my ma, I know I know my pa
I know I know my sister with the 80 meter, 80 meter bra bra bra!”
This particular clapping game song has very simple hand movements, but the text is very interesting. It engages in a lot of scandalous tabooistic discourse, and is cleverly constructed so as not to actually say any inappropriate words. For example, at “Miss Lucy went to heaven, the steamboat went to/Hello operator”, the word “hello” serves both as the greeting and as the word “hell”, where the steamboat presumably went. However, because it’s inappropriate for primary aged children (generally female) to be talking about such things as boys zipping up their flies, it’s recited in a way where they’re not technically saying anything inappropriate, though they do mean it. This tabooistic discourse is indicative of the kind of things that children at this age would be wondering about, or hearing about, and it is often passed among children and taught by friends in older grades or older siblings, continuing its tradition.