Friday, October 26, 2012

Ten Playground Rhymes Performed By Two African American Women

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post showcases a video in which two young African American females chant & perform ten handclap rhymes and one movement rhyme.

The content of this page is presented for historical, folkloric, sociological, and recreational purposes.

My thanks to the young women featured on this video for their interest in sharing those rhyme examples with others via YouTube. Thanks also to those whose comments I've republished in this post.

Since the mid 1980s, I have been collecting, compiling, and studying the lyrics & performance activities of English language playground rhymes & cheers. Although I'm interested in most of the genres of English language playground rhymes, my main interest is in African American playground rhymes & cheers from the 1960s to date. For that reason, I was very glad that I happened upon this video while "surfing YouTube" (clicking somewhat randomly on one video after another that are found on the website.)

That said, I didn't add this video to the two hand clap rhymes pages or the children's movement rhymes of my Cocojams cultural website because one of the rhymes that the girls chanted included actions that are racially offensive & hurtful. [Note: I voluntarily discontinued that Cocojams website in 2014].

Yet it seems to me that discussions about the words & performance activities of playground rhymes - including words & actions that are considered offensive - should also be part of the folkloric record. For that reason, I've chosen to feature that video & selected comments from that video's viewer comment thread on pancocojams instead of on my Cocojams' website where it appears that a large percentage of the visitors are children.

Focusing on a discussion (that I participated in) about the inclusion of offensive words & actions in playground rhymes is only one of the reasons why I chose to showcase this video. I also am showcasing this video to document the way that different hand clap movements (routines) are used for different rhymes and the way that imitative actions (mimes) may also be used with certain hand clap rhymes.

I have observed similar routines for each of these rhymes among African American children and teens in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area where I live (observations of rhymes from 1980s to date). And I have observed the same or similar routines for versions of the same rhymes via YouTube videos.

The belief that there are specific, agreed upon hand movements for certain hand clap rhymes is, in my opinion, an important point that should be documented and explored for the folkloric record. Note, for example, how the one woman who introduces the rhyme examples indicates that the "Tweet Tweeet Tweet" rhyme (also known as "Rockin Robin" or "Tweedleelee" or some other similar title) is performed with four people together. This conforms with my direct (in person) observations of this rhyme and also conforms with my observations of this rhyme via videos.

This post does not include any transcriptions of the rhymes that the young women perform in this featured video. However, multiple text versions (the words to) each of the hand clap rhymes, along that the young women chanted, with videos of those rhymes can be found on pages of my Cocojams2 blog. A link to that blog is included in pancocojams' "About Me" section.


Fun hand games

fatcat123455, Uploaded on Dec 24, 2011

old school hand games from way back.. can u remember any more??? i got like 10 of them bo seantin tatin 2.miss mary mack
3. i dont want to go to mexico 4.tweet tweet tweet mother your mother 6. down down baby 7. little sally walker 8.double double this this 9. ini mini sicilini
10. i went to a chineese restaurant 11. ce ce my play mate
The last rhyme also contains words to a version of "Fudge Fudge Call The Judge".

Since I believe it's important to document demographical information when collecting playground rhymes, I'll add the following information that I've gleaned from observing this video:

It appears to me that these young women are in their late teens or their early twenties. If so, my guess is that they would have performed those rhymes in late 1990s and/or the early 2000s.

These young women didn't say that they are African Americans. I guessed that based on the way they pronounced their words, and the narrator's use of African American English slang term "old school" to describe those rhymes - "Old school" is a term that I first heard around the early 1990s, though it might have been used before that. That term is still used today and means means "something from the past", in particular a dance step or a song. Something described as "old school" could be good, bad, or neutral. But my sense is that people usually refer to something as "old school" when they are reminiscing about the music & dance (and in this case, the playground rhymes), they have fond memories of from their childhood or teen years.

I also guessed that these young women are African American based on the playground rhymes that they performed, and based on their appearance, including their clothing, & their hairstyles. However, I'm not sure which region or state in the USA they are from, since most African American accents seem the same to me.

These young women certainly appear to be from the middle economic class [in the USA], judging from their diction, the appearance of the room where this video is being taped, and judging from their access to the Internet to tape this video.

I'd love it if one or both of those women would confirm my guesses and share additional demographical information such as when (which decade/s), where (geographical location), and how they learned those rhymes.


"I love these! Great job!! my only complaint is to have wished you to have changed the ending of "Chinese Restaurant" so that the stereotyped Asian faces part was excluded or better yet, changed to something that was celebratory and not derogatory. Otherwise, so glad that you shared.
-othaday54 . August 2012
"well the chinese restasurant was how i sang it as a kid... we didnt kno any better back then to kno if we were singing offensive things... but thx for the comments anywho :)"
-fatcat123455, August 2012, Reply in reply to othaday54
"No way! Stop being so PC! Changing them would ruin them. Don't be so sensitive. This is in no way derogatory."
-faeriefirefly917 September 2012, Reply in reply to othaday54
["PC" = "politically correct". In the United States, being "politically correct" is also used to refer to non-political actions and/or communications that conform to social norms regarding cultural sensitivity/cultural competency, particularly with regards to saying or doing those things that aren't offensive to people of other races, ethnicities (with ethnicity here meaning "Latinos/Latinas" who according to USA census policies can be of any race), religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability etc.]
"Actually, there are alot of derogatory words (& in this case accompanying mimicking actions) in children's rhymes. And the words to playground rhymes change all the time accidentally because of mishearing or misremembering or not recognizing a word or phrase & substituting that unfamilar word/phrase for another one. So there's nothing wrong with purposely changing a word/phrase that is offensive & hurtful. And if you were Asian, it's likely you'd fine that version offensive & hurtful.
-azizip171, October 2012, in reply to faeriefirefly917
"Part 2 of my comment

Just like the "eenie meenie" rhyme was changed on purpose, that Chinese Restaurant rhyme has been & can be.

That said, I congratulate the two girls who made the video for documenting the way the rhymes were when they learned them. It's one thing to document the way rhymes were for the "folkloric record" & another thing to encourage children nowadays to perform them in the exact same way you remember.
-azizip171, October 2012
"Part 3 of my comment

For the folkloric record, I featured this video & selected comments found here (including my own comments) in a post on my cultural blog. Google Pancocojams Various Playground Rhymes Performed By Two African American Women.

My sincere thanks to the young women who performed in this video for their interest in encouraging interest in these rhymes. My sincere thanks also to those whose comments I re-published in my blog post.
-azizip171, October 2012

Also for the folkloric record, I'm re-publishing this exchange between three commenters:

"wow nice i remember a lot of these. But u got them but some of its a little wrong but good job"
-bubbles bubbles, August 2012
"I don't think there is a "right" or "wrong" way to do's mostly a regional thing. Several of them are a bit different from what I learned growing up in Florida, but I still recognized most of them... :)"
-NubianP6 , August 2012
"Agree - there is no right or wrong.....these are part of the folk tradition of music-making, story-telling, game-playing and dancing. As such, they change and evolve.....Growing up in Chicago, I recognize a number of them as variants on what kids used to do in the 60's and 70's. THANKS for sharing them! As a Black music educator and drum circle facilitator it is so good to see young Blacks beginning to make and share videos like this."
-othaday54, September 2012, in reply to NubianP6
In her comments Othaday54 identifies herself as Black. And the screen name "NubianP64" also identifies that commenter as Black.

As an aside, it's interesting how many bloggers choose screen names that include numbers, myself included (My screen name on YouTube is azizip171). A study of why people do this would be interesting. A study of how blogger names reveal the blogger's race, ethnicity, and/or nationality would also be interesting...

Thank you for visiting pancocojams.

Visitor comments are welcome.


  1. Awesome!! I was looking for African American rhymes and was getting sad that they weren't being archived. Thanks so much and keep doing this!

    1. Thanks for your comment Tabi Upton.

      I love recollecting and collecting African American rhymes, game songs, and chants. Here's the link to my cocojams2 blog site which there's a compilation of additional examples:

      Best wishes!

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