Friday, October 11, 2013

The Word "Shame" In Children's Rhymes, Part I

Edited by Azizi Powell

This is Part I of a four part series on the inclusion of the word "shame" in children's playground rhymes & sayings.

This post suggests a Biblical origin for the saying "shame shame double shame" and provides examples & explanations for certain rhymes that include that line. In addition, this post provides examples of the adults' & children's saying "shame shame puppy [or "poppy] shame. Part I of this series also features an example of a 1920 children's rhyme that includes the line "Shame shame double shame".

Click for Part II. That post presents comments about and examples of "I Don't Want To Go To Mexico" rhymes that begin with the introductory line "shame shame shame" and/or end with the word "shame".

Click for Part III. That post features videos of "I Don't Want To Go To Mexico" that include the "shame shame shame" introductory line and/or the "shame" ending.

Click for Part IV of this series. That post features other contemporary English language playground rhymes that have a "shame shame shame" line.

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

All copyrights remain with their owners.

My guess is that Isaiah 61:7 is a likely source for the taunting saying "Shame shame double shame":

New American Standard Bible
"Instead of your shame you will have a double portion, And instead of humiliation they will shout for joy over their portion. Therefore they will possess a double portion in their land, Everlasting joy will be theirs."

GOD'S WORD® Translation
"You will receive a double measure of wealth instead of your shame. You will sing about your wealth instead of being disgraced. That is why you will have a double measure of wealth in your land. You will have everlasting joy."


1 "Shame Shame Double Shame...
...everybody knows your name.
Was it just me growing up, or were you told this little ditty when you were naughty too?"

2. "Childhood Shame Game
I was reminded by a coworker of the gestere where one points their left index finger toward a person, rubs their right index finger along it (as though whittling wood) and says a little rhyme. In my schoolyard the rhyme was always:
"Shame, shame, double shame,
Now we know your boyfriend's** name"

(**girlfriend's, if we were pointing at a boy; same sex was not an option, unless we were feeling particularly nasty.), 25 January 2005

Policeman, policeman, do your duty,
Here comes (name of next jumper)
And she’s a cutie;
She can jump, she can twist,
But I bet she can’t do this.
Down by the valley where the green grass grows sat pretty ( girls name) pretty as a rose she sang and she sang and she sang so sweet along came ( a boy the jumper likes) kissed her on the cheek shame shame double shame now we know your boyfriends name took her to the movies sat her on his lap asked her a question will you marry me yes,no.maby (keep going until the jumper misses.

"Policeman Jump Rope Songs", Sun Apr 10 2005
Italics added to highlight that line.

Note: This saying appears to be mostly voiced by children & youth.

"Double shame" means "your shame is doubled", in other words, you should feel a great deal of shame. These rhymes/sayings imply that the person would be embarrassed if people knew his or her name, and/or the person wouldn't want anyone to know her boyfriend's [or his girlfriend's] name. The implication in these sayings is that the person has done something wrong and therefore should be very ashamed.

Disclaimer: I've posted the comment in Example #2 above about gender & boyfriend/girlfriend as it was written. However, I want to be clear that I regret that this was how most people thought then and how many people still think now.


From Google books Journal of American Folklore
Given under "1920 Manners and customs", p.132

Rhea Walker [Pontiac*]

Rhyme – Windflower

1. Water water wind-flower;
growing up so high;
We are all fine ladies;
All expect to die
Except ___ [ name]

2. Shame! Shame! Double Shame!
Turn your back and say your beau’s name [girl complies]
___ is a fine young man,
He comes to the door with his hat in his hand.

3. The bosom of his shirt is as white milk.
Out comes she, all dressed in silk.
She takes of her glove, shows a gold ring.
Tomorrow! Tomorrow! The wedding begins.
*probably Pontiac, Michigan

Another example of this rhyme found on that page includes the line
"fie fie fie for shame!" "Fie fie for shame" is a much earlier line than "shame shame double shame". Click for information and examples of "Water water wallflower [or "wildflower"] rhymes. As an aside, I believe that the title but not the text of those old rhymes is the main source of the widely known contemporary hand clap rhymes "Brick wall Water fall".

Here's information about the meaning of the word "fie" from
"Obsolete or facetious an exclamation of distaste or mock dismay
[from Old French fi, from Latin fī, exclamation of disgust]".

1. "Shame, shame, puppy shame. All the monkeys know your name. It's a school playground taunt from India, also used as mild reprimand meaning "you should be ashamed of yourself"."
-downtide, 2011 "From where the saying derived "Shame, Shame Puppy Shame"?"

2. "Shame shame puppy shame
Phrase.April 20, 2012, Word of the Day

Definition #1
A charming expression of light hearted remonstration for some, usually minor, social transgression or faux pas, a taboo flouted, a line of decency crossed...
Raj: "Uff ho! I missed my cousin sister's birthday!"
Seema: "Shame shame puppy shame!"

Definition 2
The phrase is used to indicate impropriety of some nature, such as excessive skin showing, or visible underwear.
It is used in awkward situations to create further embarrassment.
This phrase is not used to mildly remonstrate.
Hey Latha, your thong is showing! Ha ha, shame shame puppy shame!"
...Region: All India

While the rhyme "shame shame puppy shame/all the monkeys [or "donkeys] know your name" may be heard mostly from children, it appears from online sources that the saying "shame shame" is widely used by adults in India and certain other South Asian nations.

A commenter's quote about the post
"My summation: Pakistani custom of saying “Shame Shame” when a baby is getting their diaper or their clothes changed. Reasons given by commenters: “teaching the extreme importance of not getting naked”; “make an individual averse to the idea of being nude in public.”

“Your post sparked an interesting dinner party conversation last night. After explaining what you wrote I asked if Nepali parents do the same thing.

I was told that they do, but in a "cute way" and that none of the other guests found anything wrong with it (I think they thought it was kind of weird that I wouldn't want my kid to hear "shame shame").

I got a similar answers to what you heard ("it helps to teach modesty, so when the kids are older they don't run around naked") and also that it was an intimate gesture between loving adults and their kids... a cutesy little rhyme that wasn't supposed to mean offense "Shame Shame poppy shame, all the donkeys (or monkeys) know your name"
americanepali, October 14, 2009 at 9:49 AM

Although I can't substantiate it, I also think that that saying "shame shame double shame" is earlier than the Indian, Pakistani, Nepali etc saying "Shame Shame puppy [or "poppy"] shame" & that latter saying came from the former one. I also think that the word "poppy" in this rhyme originated as a folk etymology [misheard/misremembered] form of the word "puppy".

As to the meaning of "shame shame puppy shame", my guess is that this refers to puppies that aren't "house broken" appearing to be ashamed or expressing guilt when they are reprimanded for "making a mess" in the house. For example, read Why Puppies Act Guilty. Here's an excerpt of that post:
“Poor doggies--they illustrate the true meaning of a "hang-dog" expression!

But do dogs feel guilt and shame? Does your puppy apologize for wrong-doings? Their behavior certainly does seem to mimic what we'd think of as these emotions.”

As to the line "all the monkeys know your name", monkeys are known for making a lot of chatter, and moving rapidly from tree to tree. In so doing, if their chatter was about someone misbehaving, that news would quickly be spread everywhere.

"Folk etymology" may be the reason why the word "donkeys" is used in some examples instead of the word "monkeys". However, neither monkeys or donkeys are highly regarded animals. Then too, "donkeys" may [also?] have an added on connotation of the person being or acting like an ass [a fool].

It should also be noted that the rhyme "shame shame puppy [or "poppy"] shame/all the monkeys [or "donkeys"] know your name" is often shortened to just the first line or the phrase "puppy shame".

Pancocojams is a blog about music, dance, and customs from people of African descent around the world. This post is not meant to imply that either the saying/verse "shame shame double shame etc". or the saying/verse "shame shame double shame" originates from or is widely known & used by Black people.

I do, however, believe that the phrase "shame shame double shame" contributed to the much later use of the line "shame shame shame" in [the African American] 1974/1975 R&B song "Shame, Shame, Shame" by Shirley & Company.

I also believe those lyrics from that R&B record strongly influenced the addition of the line "shame shame shame" in African American derived versions of the playground rhyme "I Don't Want To Go To Mexico" (and similarly tilted rhymes). More information about those rhymes can be found in Part II and Part III of this series.

Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post.

Thank you for visiting pancocojams.

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