counting-out rhymes

   Used by children (and sometimes adults sotto voce) to make a random choice between options but particularly to choose who will be 'it' in a game. The children stand in a circle or line, and one child points to each in turn in the rhythm of the chanted rhyme and either the one pointed to on the last word is 'it' or, more usually, is eliminated from the count and the process is repeated until there is only one left. As such it is normally accepted as a fair method of choosing, but in the hands of a skilful practitioner the outcome can be manipulated to a certain degree. There can be few people in Britain who do not know a variant of:
   Eenie meenie minie mo Catch a nigger by his toe If he hollers let him go Eenie meenie minie mo.
   The offensive word in the second line, under pressure from parents and teachers, is usually rendered now as 'beggar' or other two-syllable word, much to the annoyance of those who believe that our traditional lore should not be changed for mere 'political correctness'. There is evidence, however, that the 'nigger' word was imported relatively late from the USA, with 'chicken' or 'tinker' being the older British form (Opie and Opie, 1997: 184-6). The first line turns up in dozens of other counting-out rhymes, and is also found in German, Austrian, and a French-Canadian version, but the middle two lines are first reported in 1888 (from Scotland). English children have a wide range of rhymes from which to choose:
   One potato, two potato, three potato, four Five potato, six potato, seven potato, more One bad spud!
   is common all over Britain, USA, Canada, and Australia, but does not seem to have been reported before 1885 (in Canada). A number of rhymes start with the words 'Ip dip', and indeed many children refer to the process as
   Ip dip sky blue Who's it not you
   is a simple version, but more common nowadays (but rarely published) is:
   Ip dip dog shit Fucking bastard silly git (Norbury, Croydon, 12-year-old girls, 1986)
   See also *shepherds' score. Bolton, 1888; Abrahams and Rankin, 1980; Opie and
   ■ Opie, 1969: 17-61.

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Counting-out game — A counting out game is a simple game intended to select a person to be it , often for the purpose of playing another game. These games usually require no materials, and are played with spoken words or hand gestures. Many such games involve one… …   Wikipedia

  • counting-out rhyme —       gibberish formula used by children, usually as a preliminary to games in which one child must be chosen to take the undesirable role designated as “It” in the United States, “It” or “He” in Britain, and “wolf,” “devil,” or “leper” in some… …   Universalium

  • counting-out rhyme — ˈ ̷ ̷ ̷ ̷| ̷ ̷ noun : one of the meaningless rhymes (as “eeny, meeny, miney, mo”) traditionally used to count out a player in a child s game …   Useful english dictionary

  • counting —    It has long been considered unlucky to count things too accurately it is tempting fate to announce (even to yourself) the exact number in case it makes you lose some. Don t count your chickens before they are hatched is an oft quoted maxim… …   A Dictionary of English folklore

  • Counting Headz: South Afrika's Sistaz in Hip Hop — is a 49 minute documentary film that explores South African hip hop culture through the stories of women in hip hop. It was shot in 2006 and completed post production in 2007. The film was directed and produced by South African filmmaker, Vusi… …   Wikipedia

  • Acting Out the ABC's — Infobox Album | Name = Walt Disney Presents Acting Out The ABC s Type = Studio Released = 1962 Label = Disneyland RecordsWalt Disney Presents Acting Out The ABC s (Disneyland Records DQ 1223) is a record album released by Disneyland Records (now… …   Wikipedia

  • A Fever You Can't Sweat Out — Studio album by Panic! at the Disco Released September …   Wikipedia

  • A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out — A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out …   Википедия

  • Tea Cup Saucer Out — is a children s playground saying, used for determining who is out or who goes first. It is related to such counting rhymes as Eeny, meeny, miny, moe or Bubble gum, bubble gum, in a dish . Reported variations of this phrase include Tea cup saucer …   Wikipedia

  • One, Two, Buckle My Shoe — This article is about the nursery rhyme. For the Agatha Christie novel, see One, Two, Buckle My Shoe (novel). One, Two, Buckle My Shoe Roud #11284 Written by Traditional Published 1805 Written England Language English Form Nursery rhyme One, Two …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.