Tag Archives: rhyme

Eenie Meenie Miney Moe – Children’s Rhyme


“Eenie meenie miney moe, 

Catch a tiger by his toe, 

If he hollers let him go, 

Eeine meenie miney moe.”


JN is a 50-year-old freelance writer in Minnesota, where she grew up as well. I asked her about any traditions she remembers from when she was a child, such as rhymes or things of that sort. She told me that this rhyme was said by kids, “…And whoever it landed on [when they said the last “moe”] was the person who was ‘it’ and we used it for things like tag or jump rope.” 


This rhyme was a way for kids to “fairly” decide who was “it” during gameplay. Kids really emphasize fairness, and no one likes being “it”, so doing a game like “eenie meenie miney moe” is a way to randomize who is “it”. Even though much of this rhyme isn’t real English words and the phrases don’t make sense, it does rhyme, so it sounds good together and flows well. The words themselves aren’t what give it meaning, instead it is the context in which they are used. And there is variation among this rhyme as well, as I have heard the last line said as “and you are ‘it’” or “and you are not ‘it’” in different situations. Games are fun for children when they are perceived as fair, so little rhymes and other things like this have developed as a way to ensure fairness while also allowing the games themselves to continue. Even if you don’t want to be “it” and put up a fuss, you can’t really argue with “eenie meenie miney moe.” And this rhyme is short and easy to remember and learn, which explains its spread and continued use across long periods of time (at least from when my informant was a kid a few decades ago to when I was a kid about a decade ago). 

Bubble Gum Bubble Gum in the Dish

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.

German Birthday Rhyme


HH is a retired former housewife who lives in Westergellersen, a small village in northern Germany.

Main Piece:

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).

Dirty Rotten Devil


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.

Main Piece:

“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.

Chic-ory Chic


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!

Main Piece:

“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.