Though it now appears to be dying out (everywhere except Dave Matthews songs), the simple rhyme was once one of the best known taunts in the English-speaking world:
I’m the king of the castle
you’re the dirty rascal
It’s been appearing in print since at least 1850s, when it appeared in a book called Games and Sports for Young Boys. From the context of the book, you get the idea that it was hardly new, then, and could well go back to the 18th century. In the book (and many other similar 19th century books, the rhyme is described as the the opening taunt in a game of “king of the castle,” which is the same game now often called “King of the Mountain,” in which one kid stands on top of a hill, and the others attempt to knock him down and take his place. This game was not allowed at my school, but we played it anyway. In 1969, Iona and Opie Anthony noted that the game was known as “king of the castle” in the UK and “king of the mountain” in the states.
There are minor variations to the rhyme in the 19th century texts. In some versions of the game, the “king” opens the game by shouting “I’m the king of the castle, get down you dirty rascal!” In others, the king only shouts “I’m the king of the castle,” and the other players respond with “come down, you dirty rascal.”
Interesting note: the game above “King of the Castle” in the book mentioned above is called “knights,” a fight between two boys carried on the shoulders of other boys. It mentions that the ancient Greeks called this game “hippas.” We called it “chicken fighting.” The same book describes “hide and seek” under the name “Whoop!” You can read it on Google Books
But anyway, does the rhyme still come up outside of the music world? Is it still “King of the Castle” in the UK? Is it called that anywhere in the states (it certainly was in the past)?