Informant: The informant is my sibling, a Mexican American boy who is 14 years old and currently an 8th grader at a charter school in Los Angeles California.
Context: My informant explains that this verse is usually present when there has to be an “it.” For example, when playing hide and seek or tag. In addition, he also stated that this rhyme is more common with the girls.
J: “When you are going to play a game of hide and seek or freeze tag and you need to choose a person, everyone has to put their shoe in the middle (puts foot in middle) then you say …” Bubblegum bubblegum in a dish, how many pieces do you wish?” Each syllable goes around someone shoes. Whoever it lands on has to pick a number and then it continues until that number is reached. Whoever it lands on gets out until the last person is left. and that last person is choose as the “it””
Analysis: I’m surprise that this verse is still used up to this day. I would have thought that this would have died a long time ago, but it hasn’t. This is due to the fact that children teach other children how to go along with these rhymes. In this rhyme it is evident that it is performed in order to be fair and has this element of destiny to it. It prevents children or even teenagers from fighting because there is no way that there could have been cheating.
HH is a retired former housewife who lives in Westergellersen, a small village in northern Germany.
Am Fenster heute Morgen
Da saßen ohne Sorgen
Drei Spatzen und drei Meisen.
Ja was soll das den heißen?
Sie haben’s mir geflüstert.
Ich weiß es ganz genau:
"Name" hat heute Geburtstag.
Darum der Radau!
At the window this morning
There sat without worries
Three sparrows and three tits.
What is that supposed to mean?
They whispered it to me.
I know it exactly:
It's "Name"'s birthday today
Therefore the noise!
This rhyme is longer and a bit more complex than the now ubiquitous ‘happy birthday’ song is in America, but it serves the same function. Both verses have a space to insert the name of the person who is being celebrated, which makes the chant personalized to the birthday celebrator. I think the inclusion of specifically named bird varieties, sparrows and tits, interesting because while these are common birds, they do place locational limits on the rhyme.
The final line of the verse, “Darum der Radau!” I found a little difficult to translate. I chose to translate word for word, but fear that the implied meaning may not be clear from this literal translation. ‘Darum’ can mean because of, therefore, or hence, and ‘Radau’ has a lot of adjacent translations including noise, racket, and hullabaloo. In effect, the final line of the rhyme is the speakers explaining why they are being boisterous and causing a racket (either through the loud reciting of the rhyme, or the celebratory event they are in the midst of).
My informant for this piece is my grandmother, who learned this song from her father and passed it on to her children and grandchildren. She grew up up in North Central Wisconsin and suspects that it came from one of the men’s groups, likely a fraternity, that her father was a part of there.
My grandma sings this tune quite often in times of relaxation when joking around is warranted. I specifically remember her performing it down by the water on our family vacations to Lake Kathrine, Wisconsin, during summers when I was growing up.
“I’m a devil, a dirty rotten devil, put poison in my mother’s cream of wheat! I put a blotch on, the family escutcheon, and I eat *slurp noise 2x* raw meat!”
While this piece of lore could be looked at as great example of how dark comedy can play an important role in the relationships between an individual and their loved ones, I want to consider it through the lens of a parent who’s child is mad at them. Given that a the rhyme uses the word “escutcheon” (the spelling of which I had to Google), I think it’s unlikely that it was written by a child. With that in mind, the parent in this situation is able to satirize the childs anger at them by joking that the child wishes to poison them–while that may not be completely true, it’s possible that the parent feels there’s some truth in the statement. Nonetheless, in noting the amount of chaos that children can cause at times, this rhyme shows the wisdom of a parent accepting that fact in their ability to make light of it.
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.
BACKGROUND: My informant, AC, was born in the US and attended boarding school in NH. AC was very active in theater and this rhyme was something that the drama department would chant before a few other students brought to their attention that it was less light-hearted than it seemed.
CONTEXT: This piece is from a conversation with my friend where we talked about our time at boarding school.
THE RHYME: Three, six, nine, the goose drank wine. The monkey chewed tobacco on the streetcar line. The line broke. The monkey got choked. And they all went to heaven in a little rowboat!
AC: Yeah — we used to chant it like, before every show for good luck. I don’t really know where we got that from but like basically I was taught it from all the older [theater] kids and I guess they got it from the people before. But I think it might be a song or something, like there’s more words.
Me: And when did you stop [the chant]?
AC: Well um, I know you already know, some people pointed out the chant might have some racist undertones. Like the monkey that got choked on the line could be — it’s almost representative of a lynching of a black person. So yeah, we don’t use that chant anymore.
THOUGHTS: This rhyme is interesting to me because as someone who also briefly did theater in high school, I would watch other students chant this backstage before a show to get pumped up. I never really knew why this was what they chanted, it seemed completely unrelated to theater, but people seemed to really like its bouncy quality. The interpretation of the song as a slave allegory makes some sense to me. “The monkey” being a racist term for a black man and the rest of the rhyme details how the man minds his business on a streetcar until he is lynched and sent to Heaven. Some students disputed the racial interpretation of the rhyme, dismissing it as harmless. But based on the tumultuous history of the school — having been built from slave labor — I wouldn’t be surprised if that interpretation held some truth.