Selection Rhyme

Counting out Rhyme:

Inky Binky Bon-key

1        2       3      4

Daddy had a don-key

1       2        3     4

Donkey died, Daddy cried

1         2       3         4

Inky Binky Bon-key

1      2       3      4

This rhyme is used as a method of selecting someone to be “It” in a game of tag, or to select someone to do a certain task (either desirable or undesirable).  Everyone stands in a circle and either puts their fist or foot in the circle.  Someone, often the “leader” of the group is responsible for saying the rhyme and with each word goes around the circle in a clockwise direction lightly tapping the fists or feet of the participants with their own fist (Bon-key and don-key both count as two words—meaning two taps, and the “a” before the word “donkey”  is ignored—no tap). Whoever is the person to get tapped on the last syllable of the rhyme (the –key part of the second Bon-key) is “It” or the selected person to do the task.  There are different variations of the same rhyme.  In one variation you continue to say the rhyme eliminating each person who is tapped on the last syllable until only one person is left, and this person is the one which must do the task.  There also is a variation where everyone puts both their fists or feet into the circle, elongating the time it takes to select the one person, thus creating more suspense.

Katy learned this on the playground during elementary school, and is not sure of the exact moment and location or who told her about it, but did use it often.  She is not sure of where the counting rhyme came from, or what the significance of its lines is.

It is rather remarkable that kids devise such easy ways to make decisions, as adults often find themselves caught in a power struggle over a particular issue.  While it is hard to interpret this nonsensical riddle, it could portray the message of getting over things quickly and moving on, as implied by “donkey died, daddy cried.” This could be targeted towards the “loser” who has to be it or do the task, implying that one should deal with it and move on.  There is another related counting rhyme which I found after some research on the internet:

Inka binka bottle of ink

The cork fell off and you stink

Not because you’re dirty

Not because you’re clean,

Just because you kissed a boy (or girl) behind a magazine.

Whether the “inka binka” and “inky binky bonkey” are related or derive from the same origins is hard to gather, however the rest of the rhymes don’t really relate, and it could just be a coincidence.  I was not able to find any rhymes that were in between the two, as both seem to have very little variation.