My informant, who is my grandmother, learned this nonsense rhyme from her mother, who used it as a lullaby when she was a young girl. She has since passed it on to her children and grandchildren, remembering it as a source of nostalgia and for the satisfaction of its recitation. I also remember that my mother sang it to me when I was younger!
My grandma sings this tune quite often in times of relaxation when joking around is warranted. Specifically, I remember her using it as a lullaby for my cousins and me when we were growing up. I also remember that my mother sang it to me when I was younger!
“Chic-ory chic chala chala,
Checkoleroma in a bananica,
Balacawalaka can’t you see?
Chic-ory chic is me!”
I think this nursery rhyme has been passed on because of its short length and rhythmic structure, which both work to make it easier to memorize. While it might not have any significant meaning, there is something to be said about the fact that nonsense rhymes like this one can exist and persist over time simply because they’re satisfying to the ear. In the text of the rhyme, alliteration, consonance, internal rhyme, and end rhyme can be recognized. By jamming all of these writing strategies into such a short piece of speech, it is made into something quite nice to hear.
“At the end of every rehearsal, no matter how tense it ended, no matter how bad of a note it ended on, we said this chant. It was something like, “I have one last thing to say, goo cacti. Wu-tang, wu-tang, wu-tang crew ain’t nunckuck, who? With tight groups and apple…proceed.” So how this came to be was that apparently our director started it when he was at that high school and people over the years just added on different phrases to it. Cacti was the name of my director’s friend group in high school I think.
This was the post-rehearsal ritual of a high school theater group in Los Angeles.
The informant is 23, from Los Angeles.
High school in general is a place that likes to memorialize people. While sports teams can hang banners in gyms to immortalize sports achievements, high school theater groups must come up with alternate methods to preserve their “greats”. For example, the kids in my high school theater program would save costumes of respected peers as a way to preserve their memories. This chant seems like another way of doing that as well. The actual chant is completely indecipherable of any sort of meaning to me, and the informant I interviewed couldn’t explain any of the segments besides the first one, “cacti”. Therefore, it seems that each group of kids that adds to it gets to add their own private meaning to the chant through their own nonsense word. This is an example of cultural intimacy that would seem weird to outsiders, which only makes members of the group more proud of their tradition.