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Playground rhymes

November 5, 2018

Do children still recite playground rhymes? This seems to be a folk art in decline. The other day I asked my son Fred (14) what playground rhymes he remembered from primary school and he said none, because there weren’t any. But my daughter Ros (19) does remember some clapping and skipping rhymes. Specifically, she remembered one that went:

I went to a Chinese to buy a loaf of bread

They wrapped it up in a five-pound note and this is what they said

My name is Halo Chickelo Chickelo Halo Halo Chickelo Big Chief How!

She also remembered the song of Suzi:

When Suzi was a baby

A baby Suzi was and she went

Wah! Wah! Wah wah wah!

Wah wah wah wah wah wah wah!

When Suzi was a schoolgirl

A schoolgirl Suzi was and she went

Miss! Miss! I can’t do this!

I got my knickers in a terrible twist.

When Suzi was a teenager

A teenager she was and she went

Ooh! Ah! I lost my bra!

I must have left it in my boyfriend’s car!

When Suzi was a mother

A mother Suzi was and she went

Brush your teeth! Comb your hair!

Don’t forget your underwear!

When Suzi was a granny

A granny Suzi was and she went

Knit! Knit! Knit knit knit!

Knit knit knit knit knit knit knit!

When Suzi wa-as de- ead

De-ead Suzi was and she went…

(Silence)

Ros also knew Inky Pinky Ponky, Daaddy bought a donkey, Donkey died, Daddy cried, Inky Pinky Ponky; and one with the refrain In came the doctor, In came the nurse, In came the lady with the alligator purse. Perhaps girls tell or told these rhymes more than boys. But I can remember lots of them from my schooldays – not so much clapping and skipping rhymes as little stories told in verse, some of them very bawdy. Here is one that springs to mind:

The moon shines down on the village green

It shines on Little Nell.

Is she picking flowers?

Is she bloody hell!

She’s waiting for her lover

A constipated bugger

Who isn’t fit to shovel shit

From one place to another.

Or:

There was a boy named Billy

With a ten-foot willy

And he showed it to the lady next door.

She thought it was a snake

So she hit it with a rake

And now it’s only four foot four.

There were also rhymes which set you up to expect a rude word and then coyly refused to deliver:

As I was going to St Paul’s

A lady grabbed me by the… arm.

She said you look a man of pluck –

Come home with me and have a… ham sandwich.

And there was:

Ask no questions, tell no lies

I saw a policeman doing up his… Flies

are a nuisance, bugs are worse

This is the end of my Chinese verse.

To the tune of ‘My Bonny Lies over the Ocean’:

My father’s a lavatory cleaner

He works all day and all night

And when he comes home in the evening

His hands are all covered in…

Shine your buckles with Brasso

Only three-halfpence a tin.

You can buy it or nick it from Woolworths

But I don’t think they’ve got any in.

Now some say he died of a fever

Some say he died of a fit.

But I know what my poor Dad died of:

He died of the smell of the…

Shine your buckles with Brasso

Only three-halfpence a tin.

You can buy it or nick it from Woolworths

But I don’t think they’ve got any in.

Now some say he’s buried in gravel

Some say he’s buried in grit.

But I know what my poor Dad lies in –

He’s buried in six foot of

Shine your buckles with Brasso

Only three-halfpence a tin.

You can buy it or nick it from Woolworths

But I don’t think they’ve got any in!

I wonder if there are still anonymous geniuses coming up with these quirky, surreal, strongly rhythmical and memorisable rhymes – or is it indeed a lost art?

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7 Comments
  1. Simon Carter permalink

    I think these rhymes were much more commonly used by girls than boys during skipping and clapping games. Girls also played games involving bouncing/juggling tennis balls off the wall with incredible proficiency while boys just played football and ran around shouting and fighting each other.
    You have reminded me of a playground question which involved pointing at various body parts. It can probably be imagined: the answer was Tony Hancock.

  2. Ah yes: I remember this one well: the four body parts that made up Tony Hancock.

    • Simon Carter permalink

      Probably dates us both quite accurately!

  3. Mark Brafield permalink

    Thanks for this post Brandon which I enjoyed reading greatly. It took me right back to the playground at Churchfields Primary School, Woodford, where we had all of these rhymes as well. I am not sure that my son (17) knows any, but I know that the Suzi song was current around 5 years ago at our local comprehensive. A young girl we know sang a variant that goes ‘Ooh, ahh, I lost my bra, I left my knickers in my boyfriend’s car’. Her rather delicate mother was deeply shocked at this indecency.

    But it seems like other rhymes and songs might be taking their place. I remember at school, if you ever did anything remotely skilful, you had to say ‘skill McGill from Buckhurst Hill’. I have now passed this on to my son and we say it all the time. Likewise ‘easy peasy Japanesey’ (although a friend of mine from Oxfordshire insists that the correct version is ‘easy peasy lemon squeezy’).

    My son tells me that if you fart, in order to gain immunity from the consequences, you have to shout ‘safety’. However, if someone else shouts ‘doorknob’ before you shout ‘safety’, then they are entitled to keep punching you until you run and touch the nearest doorknob.

    Perhaps the playground rhyme lives in on the football chants that we hear on the terraces every Saturday afternoon. I am fascinated at how these develop. When a new player joins, someone, somewhere sits down and makes up a song about their name, and somehow it catches on and spreads throughout the crowd, so you only need one person to sing the first word of the song, and suddenly 2,000 people are singing it. How does that work, or, more interesting, how did that work before the internet made it easy to spread these things ?

    There are, obviously, lots of these songs, but as a Manchester United supporter I like the Anthony Martial song. (There is a rather good joke about Anthony Martial (French) and Eric Bailly (Ivorian), to the effect that in these days of fancy, over-priced foreign footballers, Manchester United has two, horny-handed Englishmen playing; Tony Marshall and Eric Bailey).

    ‘Tony Marshall came from France,
    The English press said he had no chance.
    Fifty million down the drain,
    Tony Marshall scores again’.

    And then there is the George Best song to the tune of ‘Spirit in the sky’;

    ‘Going on up to the spirits in the sky,
    It’s where I wanna go when I die.
    When I die and you lay me to rest,
    I wanna go on the piss with Georgie Best’.

    • Thanks for this Mark! I am not a Manchester United fan but I do remember reading of a terrace chant about Jaap Stam , which I greatly enjoyed:

      Jip-Jaap Stam is a big Dutchman
      Get past him if you fucking can
      Try a little trick
      And he’ll make you look a prick
      Jip-Jaap, Jip-Jaap Stam.

  4. Simon Carter permalink

    Crystal Palace used to sing, pace Tommy Steele

    Darren Pitcher, Darren Pitcher what a psychopath
    Andy Cole heading for the goal
    In comes Darren with his studs on show
    Clap hands, stamp your feet
    Stick him on his Man U bum
    Um tiddly um Tum Tum
    Stick him in Arthur Wait stand.

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