Friday, December 2, 2011

The Children's Rhyme "Gigalo" ("Jigalow") - Examples & Probable Sources

Edited by Azizi Powell

Latest Update - February 13, 2019

This pancocojams post provides text, video examples, and comments about the children's playground rhyme "Gigalo" ("Jigalow").

The content of this post is presented for folkloric and recreational purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who contributed examples of these rhymes. Thanks also to all those who are quoted in this post, and thanks to those who are featured in the videos and who published those videos on YouTube.

"Gigalo" (also spelled "Jigalow") is a children's singing game or hand clap game which is known with different performance activities in the United States and in Great Britain.

The name "Gigalo" has nothing to do with male prostitution. Words that are spelled and/or pronounced the same don't necessarily have the same meaning. The word "jigalo" (with various spellings) in this children's game/dance doesn't mean "male prostitute". Read the information about the British and American (USA) origins of the children's game. The children's game known as "Gigalo" probably got its name from the British hand clap rhyme "High Low Jack A Low" and that hand clap game is likely named after the very old card game "High low-Jack". Read information about that game below.

The earliest example of "Gigalo" that I've come across is the example that I collected from my daughter & her friends in the mid to late 1980s (see text example #1 above). Of course, earlier examples of that cheer may exist in other persons' memories or in written form.

Given its textual structure and performance activity, I believe that the Gigalo rhyme is of African American origin. However, it's clear from reading online examples of "Gigalo" that this cheer/rhyme is also known and performed by non-African Americans (mostly girls).

From the number of YouTube video examples and comments, it appears that "Gigalow" is quite widely known in the United States. However, that "Gigalo" isn't included in any off-line publications of children's rhymes as-before the internet- it was rare for most African American children's recreational rhymes, singing games, and cheers to be included in books, records, and other publications of children's rhymes. Instead, those rhymes were passed on by word of mouth.

I believe that most publications of children's rhymes only include the adult approved version of playground rhymes and not the multiple versions of rhymes that children really say. The failure to publish examples of African American playground rhymes is just one aspect of this point, but it is a critical aspect since-in my opinion- so many American children's rhymes come from African Americans.

In part because playground rhymes traditionally weren't written down, many of those rhymes were short lived, lasting only for a short space of time in certain neighborhoods. But, for some reason/s, "Gigalo" has continued to be chanted. But the way that "Gigalo" was played and is now played (in 2014) may have been (and may now be) different across racial groups.

There's no definitive spelling of the word "gigalo" because that rhyme was passed on by word of mouth. Sometimes that word is spelled "jigalo" or "jigalow". I wrote down this rhyme using the spelling "gigalo". And, by force of habit, I still spell that word that way. But "jigalo" or "jigalow" might have been a better choice because those spelling are closer than "gigalo" to the way that children pronounce that word (JIG-ah-low). Furthermore, spelling that word "jigalo" or "jigalow" wouldn't lead to any misapprehension that this children's playground rhyme is connected in any way with the sexualized referent "gigalo". To be clear, there is NO connection between the children's rhyme "Gigalo" and the playboy/pimp "gigalo".

Unfortunately, the spelling "gigalo" is the one that I started using and have grown accustomed to using. I'm not sure if the examples using the spelling "gigalo" that are featured on my Cocojams website [which I closed in 2015] and on the thread that I started for that rhyme on the Internet forum Mudcat [hereafter given as "Mudcat: Gigalo"] adopted my way of spelling that word or if that was the spelling that the people sending in examples would have used anyway.

It's possible that the spelling "gigalo" is used most often for that rhyme (if indeed it is) because the word "gigalo" is widely known in the USA. That said, one problem with transferring examples from oral tradition to written form via the internet or any other form is a copy cat effect in which people may write the words as they recall seeing them in written form.

Gigalo can be performed as a Foot stomping cheer, hand clap/imitative motions rhyme, or imitative circle singing game. Here are descriptions for each of these performance styles (given in no particular order):

Hand Clap/Imitative Motion Game
Gigalo can be performed as a partner or three, four, or more hand clap routine that combines hand claps with imitative motions. Two people, three, or four people chant this rhyme while facing each other and performing a hand clapping routine and imitative movements that conform with the words of this rhyme.

The imitative motion for the word "gigalo" is wiggling or otherwise moving your body or performing some kind of dance.

Foot stomping cheer
The textual structure of "Gigalo" (the way the words are structured) fits the definition of a "foot stomping cheers".

Gigalo has a group/consecutive soloists structure which is the signature structure for foot stomping cheers. By "group/consecutive soloist" I mean that the group's voice is heard first, and then a soloist's voice is heard. This pattern of alternating voices continues until a soloist's slightly longer portion occurs. That "soloist portion may be the end of the cheer, or the cheer might end with the group (and, sometimes also the soloist) repeating the soloist's words.

At the end of that rendition of the cheer, the complete cheer immediately starts again from the beginning with a new soloist. The order of soloists is selected before the cheer activity begins. That pattern of consecutive soloists continues until everyone in the group has had one turn as the soloist.

That said, Gigalo" doesn't fit the alternating foot stomping/(individual) hand clapping pattern that is characteristic of other foot stomping cheers that I'm aware of.

Singing game
"Gigalo" can be performed in as an imitative singing game by people standing facing the "leader" or standing forming a circle, but not holding hands. In a circle formation, the "leader" is the person standing in the middle of the circle. The "leader" or "the middle person" perform actions that conform to the words of the rhyme*. The people facing the leader or forming the circle also performs these actions. At the end of the rhyme, a new person is selected and becomes the leader or middle person. The former leader/middle person takes her or his place and the singing game begins from the beginning.

*The imitative motion for the word "gigalo" is wiggling or otherwise moving your body or performing some kind of dance.

TEXT EXAMPLES OF "GIGALO" ("JIGALOW" and similar spellings)
(Examples in this post are given in no particular order)

Example #1
All: Gig ah lo-o
Gig gig a lo-o
Gig ah lo-o
Gig gig a lo-o
Group: Hey, Kayla
Kayla: What?
Group: Are you ready to gig?
Kayla: Gig what?
Group: Gigalo
Kayla : My hands up high
My feet down low
And this is the way
I gig a lo
Group: Her hands up high
Her feet down low
And this is the way she gigalos
-T.M.P.; foot stomping cheer, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, mid to late 1980s, collected by Azizi Powell in the 1980s and transcribed in the 1990s from an audio tape that was made in the 1990s.

Example #2 & #3
This is a handclap/foot stomping cheer called Gigolo.
Group: Hey [girls name]
Girl: Yeah!
Group: Hey [girls name]
Girl: Yeah
Group: show us how yuh get down.!
Girl: what.?!
Group: show us how yuh get down.!
Girl: Well, my hands up high, my feet down low and thats the way I gigolo (does dance/motion of her own)
Group: Well, her hands up high, her feet down low and thats the way she gigolos (group repeats the unique dance/motion)
Repeat with a new girl and new dance/motion.)


Group: Hey [girls name]
Girl: Yeah!
Group: Hey [girls name]
Girl: Yeah
Group: show us how yuh get down.!
Girl: what.?!
Group: show us how yuh get down.!
Girl: Well my back aint right my bra too tight my hips keep shakin from left to right and THATS the way I gigolo (does dance/motion of her own)
Group: Well my back aint right my bra too tight my hips keep shakin from left to right and THATS the wa she gigolos(group repeats the unique dance/motion)

(Repeat with a new girl and new dance/motion.)
-Guest, 17yr old kid at heart:); "Children's Street Songs"; July 20, 2010

Editor: Note that the informant indicates that "this is a hand clap/foot stomping cheer." It's possible, and perhaps likely, that she (or he) could have used the phrase "foot stomping cheer" in imitation of my use of that phrase in earlier posts on that discussion thread.

The "show us how you get down" line is found in in mid 1980s foot stomping cheer "Get Down"... The lines "my back is aching/my bra's too tight" are commonly found in the very popular hand clap rhyme "Bang Bang Choo Choo Train".

Most examples of "Gigalo" are posted online without any information about their performance activity. Here are two such examples:

Example #4 Gigalo: performance activity unknown

here is the real version ppl.

HEY(Girls name)
ME: are you ready to jigalo?
Both: my hands up high!
My feet down low!
This is the way I jigalo!
(you keep repeating until you get bored. You also do a little dance :) hoped this helped
-Guest, meesha ; "Mudcat: Gigalo" ; May 17, 2010

Example #5 performance activity unknown
my friend taught me this.

my hands up high
my knees down low
but this the way i jigalow
the sky is blue
the grass is green
and this the way I do my thing
your daddy cook
your momma bake
but this the way my booty shake
-No name; 2/15/2007 ; Cocojams:FSC

Example #6:
Refrain (Unison)
Jig-a-low, jig, jig-a-low
Jig-a-low, jig, jig-a-low

Part I
(Call) Jasmine: Hey Stephanie!
(Response) Stephanie: Say what?
Jasmine: In-troduce yourself!
Stephanie: Know what?
Jasmine: In-troduce yourself!
[They exchange roles here.]
Stephanie: My name is Ste-phanie
Jasmine: Yeah!
Stephanie: I got the mucle.
Jasmine: Yeah!
Stephanie: To do the hu-stle
Jasmine: Yeah!
Stephanie: I do my thang
Jasmine: Yeah!
Stephanie: On the video screen
Jasmine: Yeah!
Stephanie: I do the ro, ro, ro, ro, ro-bot (punctuates each syllable with Do Do Brown)
Jasmine: She do the ro, ro, ro, ro, ro-bot (Jasmine imitates Stephanie's version of the dance)

Refrain (Unison)
Jig-a-low, jig, jig-a-low
Jig-a-low, jig, jig-a-low

Part 2
Stephanie: Hey Jasmine!
Jasmine: Hey what?
Stephanie: Are you ready?
Jasmine: To what,?
Stephanie; To jig
Jasmine: Jig-a-low?
(unison): jig what?

[Exchanged roles again]

Jasmine: Well, My hands up high, my feet down low.
and THIS's the way I jig-a-low
[Jasmine creates a stylized move on THIS's]
Stephanie: Well, My hands up high, my feet down low.
and THIS's the way she jig-a-low
[Stephanie mimics Jasmine's stylized move on THIS's.]
-Kyra D. Gaunt' book The Games Black Girls Play: Learning The Ropes From Double -Dutch To Hip-Hop (University Press, New York, 2006, page 82);
This example combines the foot stomping cheer "Jigalow" with the foot stomping cheer "Introduce Yourself".

Example #1: playing gigalo at cheer camp

Uploaded by bby209angl on Aug 3, 2010

Video Example #2: Playing jigalo

Regan Leigh Woodruff, Uploaded on Jan 28, 2009

just a bunch of people dancin'
Notice how the people playing this game aren't doing any foot stomps while they sing "Gigalo".

Video Example #3: shows us how you gigolo!

Uploaded by yfcsharmel on Sep 9, 2008

Yfc camp september 5-7 2008.

I believe that the direct source for the American rhyme "Gigalo" is the United Kingdom children's hand clap rhyme "High Low Jack A Low" (also known as "High Low Piccalo" and other similar names). That said, although both "High Low Jack A Low" and "Gigalo" may be performed as hand clap routines, that United Kingdom rhyme doesn't appear to be performed as either a singing game or a foot stomping cheer.

The probable source for the British hand clap rhyme "High Low Jack A Low" is the 17th century English card game "High Low Jack".

Here's information about this card game:
"HIGH-LOW-JACK is one of several names for an old-time card game that originated in the 1600s in England and is still very popular there. Known as All-Fours in England, it was the most popular gambling game in America until after the Civil War when Draw Poker began to overshadow it. It continued to be popular throughout the 19th century, and was most commonly known as Seven Up or Old Sledge. It is still popular today in various forms including Pitch or Auction Pitch.

Old Sledge is also the name of a West Virginia fiddle tune"...
Click for additional information about this very old card game.
The 19th century fiddle song "Old Joe Clark" contains a reference to "high low jack":
"Old Joe Clark, the preacher's son,
Preached all over the plain,
The only text he ever knew
Was "high low jack and the game".
"Limber Jack" is another 19th century African American social song that mentions the card game "Seven Up" which is also known as "High Low Jack."

Example #1: High Low Jackalo
Very interesting how these rhymes etc. are spread across continents.

Version of the above, called "Jackalo", as a handclapping song, played by middle-class white British girls in private school, Essex, just outside Greater London, end 20th/beginning 21st century:

My name is [each partner holds hands together, palm to palm, as if "praying", then each pair of hands brushes the other]

Hands now parted. Partners face each other. [Whilst the rest of the song is sung, left hand is held straight out, as if waiting to shake hands. Right hands meet, high and low, to match the rhythm of the song]:

Hi, low, Jackalo, Jackalo, Jackalo,
Hi, low, Jackalo, Jackalo and HIGH !
-jeanie; [hereafter given as "Mudcat: Gigalo"], 4/15/2007

Example #2: High Low Jigga-Low
We have a different version of "high low peccalow" here (Herts, England). Instead of peccalow it reads:

My names is ....
High Low Jigga-low
Jigga-low high Low

High Low Jigga-low
Jigga-low high

You hold onto your friend's right hand with yours and your left hands make contact.

When the song says high, you clap above the joined hands, when the song says low you clap below and when the song says Jigga you clap on the joined hands.
The aim is to run through the song as fast as possible without mucking up the clapping.
We're 17 now, but we still sometimes play it if we've nothing better to.

Usually the most muck ups happen on the second line where it goes low high.
-Guest ,Amon; "Folklore: Do kids still do clapping rhymes?"; 11/25/2007

"Han and Rhys - High Low Jackalow

Hanya GibbinsUploaded on Nov 19, 2009

bit wrecked, but we were sure good!! haha

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  1. We did this when I was in high school! It was non-competitive, but we did each try to be unique in our little individual blurbs. I have lots of funny and risque memories of that game. I sure never played it in front of my momma. She would have smacked my behind if she saw me shaking my non-existent hips like that! ;)

  2. Thanks for your comment, Bint.

    If your mother might have thought Gigalo was risque, what would she have thought of rhymes such as "Yo mama don't wear no drawers?" That African American pre-dozens children's rhyming song is the source of the camp song entitled "Your mama don't wear any socks".

    heck out my post on "Yo Mama Don't Wear No Drawers" at

  3. Thank you for blessing us with warm memories. Yo Mama songs were one of the ways we avoided fights and defused tension in middle school. I hadn't thought about this in years!

    1. Thanks for your comment Anonymous Feb 21, 2013.

      I wonder if Yo Mama songs are still sung nowadays in some middle schools as a way of avoiding fights and defusing tensions. I can see how those songs would creatively redirect that kind of energy.

      But I want to clarify that while the rhyme/cheer "Gigalo" may have been performed by children who also sang "Yo Mama Don't Wear No Drawers" and other "Yo Mama" songs/rhymes, Gigalo isn't a Yo Mama song.