Tag Archives: Counting rhyme

Eenie Meanie

Eenie meanie miney mo

Catch a tiger by his toe

If he hollers make him pay

20 (or 50) dollars every day

My mother says to pick the very best one are you are not it


The informant told me this version of the familiar counting rhyme. She says that she used this rhyme in elementary school and with her sister and family friends. She says that she has also heard other versions, but that this was the one most common for her. The informant claimed that this rhyme brought back memories of childhood and the importance of decision making and fairness that accompanied it.

When she told me this version, I was startled by the change in the third line. I was expecting: If he hollers, let him go, eenie meanie miney mo. We discussed the differences between our two versions, possibly resulting from the fact that we grew up in different parts of the country. I think her version is more dark and harsh, making the tiger pay for his pain. Also, in the version I grew up with, the last part of the rhyme goes: my mother told me to pick the very best one and it is you. The rhyme I grew up with has a more affirmative ending, instead of “not you”. When I was a kid, fairness between me and my two sisters was very important, as I’m sure it was for other kids that age. Thus, this rhyme and others like it were used to create an illusion of fairness via randomness. However, when I was a little bit older, I realized that the outcome of the rhyme depends on who you start with, and thus it is not entirely random.