Counting Out Rhymes

Though “Eeny Meeny” deserves its own post, I’ll attempt to lump the major “counting out” rhymes kids use to determine who is “it” into one post.

We would play these just for fun more often than we used them to determine who was “it.” It got to be easy to cheat after a while – you can so easily change “yes, no, maybe so” to “yes, no OR maybe so” to get an extra space to count, or, more often, if the loser was the one on the last line, we’d add “today” to the end. This led to many fights.

As with most of these things, the origin of them is obscure, but they probably go back a while. When a person is called on to say “yes” or “no,” or pick a number, I’ve just thrown something in.

Engine, engine number 9
going down Chicago line
if the train goes off the track
do you want your money back
Yes, no, maybe so.
Y-E-S spells yes and you are not it”

Bubble gum, bubble gum in a dish
how many pieces do you wish?
1-2-3 and you are not it

Inka, binka, bottle of ink
cork fell out and YOU stink

Skunk in the barnyard, P.U.
somebody ate it, that’s you!

(note: sung to the tune of Shave and a Haircut.)
(further note: the above two, like I Think I Think I Fin’ a stink, the above two are also used to taunt someone who farts)

Green apples make me sick
not because they’re dirty
not because they’re clean
not because the girls kiss like this (kiss noise)
my mom told me to pick the very best one
and you are not it today

(This was a favorite of a kid in my kindergarten. I thought that he made it up. And, indeed, it doesn’t EXACTLY appear anywhere that I’ve seen, but it seems to be a mash-up of several different rhymes. The line “not because they’re dirty, not because they’re clean” comes up in taunts and rhymes all the time, and has for years – in 1964, one of the Clancy brothers remembers shouting “not because you’re dirty, not because you’re clean / because you have the whooping cough / and eat margarine) (the book on the left expands this greatly)

Another collected by SHerman that the kid in my class may have just been trying to remember:

Candy apples on a stick make my stomach go 246
Not because I’m dirty, not because I’m clean
Just because I kissed a boy behind a magazine
Hey, boys, how bout a fight
here comes shannon on a mini mini bike
She can wibble, she can wobble, she can do the splits
she most of all, he can kiss, kiss, kiss!

Anyway, we cheated like crazy at these, just the way they did on Seinfeld. Did you?

BANNER PLAYGROUND tan2

(Visited 14,305 times, 1 visits today)

34 Comments

  1. Amy

    I grew up in Cleveland during the 1980s and here is the variation that I heard.

    Bubble gum, bubble gum in a dish
    How many pieces do you wish?
    (Cound out # that person says..)

    And out you go, you dirty old dishrag you…
    Not because you're dirty.
    Not becuase you're clean.
    Just because you kissed a boy
    behind a Playgirl magazine.
    (The person who's fist was bumped on the last syllable of magazine is "it".)

    Reply
  2. kymbrunner

    Like Amy, the end of the rhyme went like this:

    Inka, binka bottle of ink,
    Take off the cork and you stink,
    Not because you're dirty,
    Not because you're clean,
    Just because you kissed a boy
    behind a Playboy magazine.

    And my personal favorite:

    My mother and your mother were washing clothes,
    My mother punched your mother right in the nose.
    What color blood did she bleed?
    (The counter stops on a foot and the kid picks a color. The counter spells out the color word, B-L-U-E and you are out.)

    Reply
  3. skyway

    South Dakota, 1990s –
    we had several variations, including "Bubble gum, bubble gum," but they invariably ended with "and you are not it, you dirty dirty dishrag on my big fat toe".

    Reply
  4. Anonymous

    I lived in a small town in Michigan when I was a kid. We usually used the "one potato, two potato.." counting out rhyme. But my friend next door came back from a visit to her aunt in New Jersey with some exotic counting out rhymes. The one I remember the best was something like this: Itchy, gitchy, oh ma gotchy,
    Ahm pa goolie, goolie
    Out goes Y-O-U

    Reply
  5. Anonymous

    Belfast, 1980s

    ibble obble, black bobble, ibble obble out,
    If you had been where I had been you wouldn't have been put out

    ip dip, dog shit, hard luck, you're it.

    Reply
  6. Anonymous

    Adding to the above,

    there also was;

    A bottle of ink fell down the sink, how many miles did it go? (count number 1,2,3…)

    Reply
  7. Penguin

    Ack ack ack
    in you go
    o-u-t spells in

    Reply
  8. Herbaltablet

    Nuneaton, Warwickshire, England, mid-1980s to early 1990s:

    We also had a variation on the "ip dip" rhyme mentioned by the poster from Belfast, but it worked by elimination rather than selection:

    Ip dip dog shit,
    You are not it.

    (Repeated until only one person, "it", was left.)

    Another counting-out rhyme that comes to mind starts "There's a party on the hill" and involves set responses at the end of each line (to be given by whoever the selector lands on at this point). The responses are indicated by an initial dash below (and are not counted out). Words shown in brackets below are chanted but not counted out separately (e.g. in the first line, there are nine words, but only six players will be counted out).

    There's (a) party on (the) hill, can (you) come?
    – Yes.
    Bring (your) own bread (and) butter and (your) own cream bun.
    – Can't afford it.
    Who is your best friend?
    – NAME
    NAME will (be) there with (his/her) knickers in (the) air. O – U – T spells out.

    It seems there is also a version with a slightly different (and longer ending) which substitutes "with a ribbon in his/her hair" for "with his/her knickers in the air", and then asks the player what colour the ribbon is – see here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/F34261?thread=230232

    Reply
  9. mildmannered

    Where I grew up near Boston in the 1980s, there was a counting out rhyme that went something like:

    Crocadilla owe my qua qua qua
    Daisy machico chico chico cha
    fallow, fallow, fallow fallow fallow
    Fa-low!
    1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5

    I haven't been able to find anything similar anywhere, tho it reminds me of the alleged remnants of African words buried in "Iko, Iko." Boston has a lot of odd remnants; there's a neighborhood not too far away where the locals still use a few words of Romani. But I have no idea where this could have come from. Anyone know this one?

    Reply
  10. mildmannered

    Also: A Korean counting-out rhyme, recorded phonetically in 2008.

    coca cola ma shi' sa
    ma shi' suh myun do muk uh
    do muk uh myun pet ta la
    pet ta la myun chu sa ma ta chok chok pak sa ar ra ma toh pu seh yo

    Reply
  11. Adam Selzer

    Mild:

    There are a LOT of rhymes in old nursery rhyme books from the 19th century that remind me of Iko Iko – both the ones with the similar narrative (my mother and your mother get in a fight), and a lot of nonsense words that sure LOOK like they might be remnant words (as some people say Eeny Meeny may have been). I can see it going either way – I should really get a post up on Iko Iko.

    Reply
  12. Anonymous

    I know one that goes:

    Micky mouse,
    build a house,
    what colour was his brick?
    *Gets colour*
    *Spells colour*

    (Toronto, Canada, 2000s)

    Reply
  13. Anonymous

    I remember the Inka, Binka only we added an "a" at the end of "ink" at the end of the line and with "stink" as well. This was on Long Island in the mid 1970's. I also vaguely remember the "Not because you're dirty, etc." ending with kissing someone behind a magazine. I had never heard the Engine number 9 one until last week when my daughter learned it from somebody in her kindergarten class in 2012 in New Jersey.

    Reply
  14. Red Wolf

    We did that "bubblegum" one and some other one that ended with "yes, no, maybe so"(I can't remember the words for that but it wasn't any of the ones posted here) as jump-rope rhymes when I was a kid. The people turning the rope would keep counting or keep going "yes, no, maybe so" until the person jumping messed up, and whatever number or answer they were on when the jumped stopped was the jumper's answer.

    Reply
  15. Anonymous

    We had the Ip Dip rhyme in Australia in the late 70's.

    Reply
  16. Anonymous

    King tut had a butt what color was it? Spell out color.

    Inky binky bonky Dady had a donky, donky died daddy cried. Inky binky bonky.

    Reply
  17. kari

    Yeah, I heard that too, tho I believe it's Welsh in origin.

    Reply
  18. Deborah

    Here's an old one (recorded in early 20th C in Iowa):

    Intry, mintry, dibbity fig;
    Dealia, dohlia, dominig;
    Otchy, kotchy, dominotchy;
    Alla balla boo!
    Out goes you!

    Reply
  19. Egrdn

    My grandmother grew up in the Chicago area in the 1880s – 1890s, over 100 years ago. When I was a little girl she taught me the counting rhyme she learned as a child. The following is phonetic:

    Ay dray drow agada
    Mount mezally willy wada.
    Ay dray blah shoo
    Mount mezally willy woo.
    O-U-T spells out and out goes ….

    Reply
  20. Pencil

    to determine who was "It" one person would say "hold out your dukes" and everyone would put up both fists. Standing in a circle, that person would say the rhyme as he/she would tap everyone's fists. The last tap on the last line of the rhyme would eliminate that fist. this went around until the last person's Duke remained, making him/her It.

    Reply
  21. pennyrobinsonfanclub.net

    Icker backer soder (soda) cracker
    Does your mother chew terbacker?

    Heard this from my father, who grew up in NJ and Cal. in the late teens/early 20s, so not sure which coast he might have picked it up from! But sounds like rough-hewn Brooklyn-type dialect to me.

    I only heard him recite this once or twice, and just that bit, but it sounds like it would carry on as a yes/no count-out.

    Reply
  22. Machine Breaker

    I grew up in the 60s and we used the original 'Eeny, meeny, miney, moe'. The second verse of that poem was never 'Catch a tiger by the toe'; the word was nigger.

    We grew up with it and never gave it a thought. None of us grew up racists or bigots. Just some more of the politically correct agenda and watered down history.

    All you people under 60, ask your parents about this. Think about it, you can't catch a tiger by the toe, and a tiger doesn't holler.

    Reply
  23. BillS

    A longish one comes from my Kentucky childhood (now,alas, almost ninety years ago.

    William Trimmitoe, he's a good man
    Catches fish, fries 'em in a pan
    Wire, briar, limberlock,
    Three geese in a flock
    One flew east and one flew west
    Andone flew over the cuckoo's nest.
    O-U-T spells out goes you, you old dirty dishrag you.

    Reply
  24. BillS

    Edmonton, KY 1920's

    Reply
  25. BJ McDaniel

    idk but here is how I knew it:
    My crocodile Dundee crock crock crock
    sittin in a tree top trinka trinka trock
    below, below, below below below so
    1-2-3-4-5!
    I assume yours is more authentic.

    Reply
  26. BJ McDaniel

    sorry forgot to say where: south of chicago, 80's & 90's

    Reply
  27. Beka

    One of my favorites when jumping rope was.

    Cinderella dressed in yella
    Went upstairs to kiss her fella
    Made a mistake and kissed a snake
    How many doctors would it take

    And however many times we could jump was the amount of doctors it took.

    Reply
  28. Mad Dog Gatecrasher

    A poster mentioned this rhyme:

    "Skunk in the barnyard, P.U.
    somebody ate it, that's you!"

    We had something close to this in NJ mid-late 80's that mentioned "skunk in the barnyard" but it was almost sung like the opening bars of the Green Acres theme.

    Reply
  29. Fallon Walker

    In Oregon in the late 90's early 2000's we did Bubble gum bubble gum, Enie meenie, inka binka. And one more that I haven't seen here yet where everybody puts two hands in then you say "Superman superman fly away" and people get eliminated until whoever is left is "it".

    Reply
  30. Luz

    Since someone included a counting-out rhyme in Korean, I’m adding the most popular one in Spanish.

    I’m capitalizing the syllables in which you point out a different item or person:

    TIN maRÍN de DO pinGÜÉ.

    CÚcara, MÁcara, TÍtere FUE.

    “¡YO no FUI! FUE TeTÉ.

    PÉgale, PÉgale A QUIEN FUE.”

    Then, if “it” is a person, you tell him/her, “Saliste,” and keep counting out.

    Reply
  31. Who

    My rhyme is

    There’s a party on the hill would you like to come ?

    -YES

    Bring your own cup of tea and your own cream bun ?

    – YES/NO/CAN’T AFFORD IT

    Who is your best friend ?

    -NAME

    (NAME)will be there will (her/his)knickers in the air singing O-U-T spells out!

    Reply
  32. Gillian Bassett

    My father , born 1901 in Lancashire, taught me :

    Ar ra tickera, tickera rooney ,
    Looney, pooney, ping pong piney
    Allegheny western
    Itchy coo

    Reply
  33. brianna.b456

    I remember in grade one we had a thing like this:

    Dip dip.
    There’s a party on the hill, would you like to come?
    (Response – yes)
    Bring your own sauce pan and your own bubble gum.
    (Response – yes)
    What’s your best friends name?
    (Response – (name))
    (Spell out name)
    Last person tapped when spelling the name is out.

    Reply
  34. David Martinez

    Donald Duck
    Picked his butt
    How many fingers did he use.
    Count the number picked.

    Reply

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *