I See London, I See France

Everyone seems to know this one:

I see London, I see France
I see _____’s underpants!

This is well known enough that if someone’s undies are showing, you can pretty generally just say “I see London” and they’ll be alerted.

One variation I heard exactly once as a kid, but has been recorded by plenty of folklorists, was to add on:

May be purple, may be pink
I don’t know, but they sure stink!

Funny as I thought that was, it always struck me as a line that made no sense (even by playground rhyme standards, which are awfully loose where sense is concerned). If you can SEE the underpants, how would you not know whether they’re purple or pink?

A fairly common variation is

Teacher teacher, I declare
I see _______’s underwear

A variaton of THAT is to I see _________’s bottom bare. This is somewhat rare (as are bare bottom sightings compared to underwear sightings, I suppose).

Not sure as to the origin of these yet – guessing it’ll turn out to be several decades old, though.

See also: “may be black, may be blue / oh my gosh they’re full of poo” which is part of a We Will Rock You parody variation.

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  1. Anonymous

    I see London, I see France
    I see _____'s underpants!

    South Africa (late 1960s and 1970s)

    I see London, I see France
    I see _____'s underpants!

    Michigan, USA (1970s)

  2. Anonymous

    Know those first 2 lines from Long Island in the mid 1970's

    1. Cathy

      Long Island in 70s we sang

      I see London, I see France. I see ______’s underpants. Aren’t yellow, aren’t pink but they sure do stink!

  3. Fergus

    Teacher, teacher, it's not fair
    I can't see your underwear
    Is it blue, or is it green?
    Is it nitroglycerine?

    …yeah, I've got no idea either. London, early 1980s.

  4. David

    I see London, I see France
    I see xxxx's underpants
    Not too big, not too small
    But you coud hang them on a wall

    Buffalo, NY 1959 or 1960

  5. Anonymous

    I was born in Amherst NY near Buffalo, my parents and aunt/uncles said the first two lines, it was something from their childhood in the 1930-40's. I suspect they censored themselves, and stopped before they second half.

  6. Anonymous

    I grew up in Western NY. We also said the last two lines but sometimes would say, "not too big, not too small just the size of the Berlin Wall."

    Jamestown,NY 1980's

  7. Anonymous

    I grew up in Maryland the DC suburbs in the late sixty's And we ended it with "is it black is it white oh my gosh it's dynamite"

  8. Patti

    I see London, I see France
    I see _____'s underpants!
    There not Purple,there not pink
    But boy oh boy they sure do stink.

  9. Damrémont

    I see London, I see France,
    I see _______'s underpants
    Not too big, not too small
    Just the size of Montreal

    Manitoba, Canada, late 60's

  10. cupcake

    i see London, i see France, i see _______'s underpants. long or short, wide or small,they could fit, city hall!

  11. Nelson

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  12. mwesigwa allan

    During my childhood, our version went …
    I see London,
    I see France,
    I see someone's underpants,
    Not too big but not too small,
    Just the size of a toilet seat.

    (I'm from Uganda)

  13. Michael Woods

    We said it in the early fifties. Then girls were required to wear skirts or dresses to school and liked to hang on the monkey bars, so their underpants were all that covered their pelvic region. No one thought much about it then, unlike now when my granddaughters have to wear shorts under their skirts for fear some pervert will be enticed (I guess).

  14. Boo

    We made up a dance called the Dippy Dippy and it involved jumping and flipping our hair. When we saw anyone’s underpants we would start doing the Dippy Dippy and sing this playground song:

    Do the Dippy Dippy Dance
    I see _______’s underpants
    Not too big, not too small
    ‘Cause _______ is a long-eared owl!

    “Long-eared owl” was slang for “someone who is medium-sized” when I was a kid.

  15. Martha

    “I see London, I see France” also became the title of an episode of Rocko’s Modern Life where Rocko and Heffer went to France. I remember because it preceded one of my favorite episodes (Bloaty and Squirmy think Spunky’s fat is undiscovered land. LOL!)
    Surprisingly, I never heard the actual rhyme as a child, I just know the Rocko episode.


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