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Friday, November 8, 2013

Folk Processing The Children's Rhyme "Miss Sue From Alabama"

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post focuses on several folk processed examples of the contemporary (1970s to date) examples of the playground rhyme "Miss Sue From Alabama".

In this post I share my opinions about the possible origin/meaning of the name "Scooby Doo" in versions of that rhyme that begin with the lines "Miss Sue/Scooby Doo/Miss Sue From Alabama" or similar lines.

In this post I also share my opinions about the meanings of the phrase "take a smooth shot" and present variant forms of that phrase in additional examples of that rhyme.

In addition, this post focuses on two variant titles of "Miss Sue From Alabama" - "E.T. From Outer Space" and "Pea Soup".

The content of this post is presented for folkloric, cultural, and entertainment purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

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DEFINITION OF "FOLK PROCESSED"
In the context of this post, by "folk processed", I mean the changes that people purposely or accidentally make in a rhyme or song. "Folk etymology" is a way that rhymes or songs can be "folk processed".

Here's a definition of "folk etymology" from
"Folk etymology: A change in the form or pronunciation of a word or phrase resulting from a mistaken assumption about its composition or meaning."
-snip-
Folk etymology often occurs when an unfamiliar word or phrase is accidentally converted to a more familiar word or sound. Also, folk etymology may occur because a word or phrase may be misheard, misread, or mis-remembered over time, or within a short period of time. Furthermore, a name may be purposely changed for topical reasons such as to personalize the song or rhyme or make it fit a particular locale or situation.

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FEATURED EXAMPLES
Note: Examples of this "Miss Sue From Alabama" and its variants are assigned numbers for the purpose of this post. None of these examples are purported to be the source or original version of this rhyme. Furthermore, these numbers have nothing whatsoever to do with whether any featured example is older or newer than any other featured example.

The specific phrases or words that are being reviewed are presented in italics within the examples.

Focus phrases: "Scooby Doo" and "Take a smooth shot"

Example #1: Miss Sue
Miss Sue from Alabama
Hey you,
scooby do
your Mama's got the measles
Your papa's got the flu
magic measles
magic flu
Take an a b c d e f g
Take an h i j k l.m.n.o.p.
Take a smooth shot
Take a smooth shot

and now freeze.
-Eleanor Fulton, Pat Smith: Let's Slice The Ice, (Magnamusic-Baton, 1978; St. Louis, Mo.; p 16) [African American children, no state or city indicated]
-snip-
Comments about "Scooby Doo"
"Scooby Doo" is a talking brown Great Dane dog that is the star of an animated American television series "Scooby Doo, Where Are You". That series first aired in 1969. Click http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scooby-Doo for information about this series.

I believe that the term "scooby doo" was probably originally the scatting musical phrase "doo bee doo be". Here's an excerpt from an online article which agrees with this speculation:
"Now, Frank Sinatra may have been many things, but a scattin’, be-boppin’ hep cat was not one of them. Still, when he doo-be-doo-be-doo’ed his way through the end of the hit 1966 song “Strangers In The Night,” it showed just how mainstream scat singing had become. And any lingering doubts were dispelled when the hit cartoon series Scooby Doo Where Are You began running in the early 70s. Even a kid like me knew what the name Scooby Doo referred to."
http://soundcheck.wnyc.org/story/13706-where-scooby-doo-really-came/.

Comments about "take a smooth shot"
In this example & in other examples of "Miss Sue From Alabama" playground rhymes, the word "smooth" is an adjective whose 1970s slang meaning is intended. That slang meaning for "smooth" is a way of doing something gracefully and seemingly without effort". "Smooth" was often used this way when someone performed a difficult action in a way that made that action seemed easy.

"Take your best shot" is a command that is similar to "take a smooth shot". "Take your best shot" means "Make your best attempt [at something]. In these examples, the word "shot" is not related to "gun shot" or to "alcoholic shots". However, "taking a smooth shot" and "taking your best shot" may have originated as basketball jargon- effortlessly "making a basket" [throwing a basketball into the hoop].

Here's an urbandictionary.com entry for the slang meaning for the word "smooth":
"Smooth: Used when someone does something of skill and make something difficult look easy
a) a) Man, that was smooth!.

b) Used in a sarcastic form for when someone has messed something up.
b) Oh yeah, Smooth move man!
by The Spooky Twigg, October 29, 2004
http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=smooth
-snip-
"Take a smooth shot" may be the earliest form of that command, but it has been converted through folk processing into a number of other similar sounding forms. Folk processed (folk etymology) examples of "take a smooth shot" that I've read include "take a flu shot", "take a boom shot", "take a booty shot", "take a boom cha", and "take a smooth shirt". These terms are given in italics when they are found in examples in this post of "Miss Sue From Alabama" or its variants.

By no means are these the only possible variant forms of "take a smooth shot" that could be found in examples of "Miss Sue From Alabama" playground rhymes.

My position is that most if not all of these variants demonstrate children's attempts to make sense out of the words to the playground rhymes that they chant.

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Example #2
Miss Sue
Miss Sue
Miss Sue from Alabama
Her name was Suzianna
Sitting in a rocker
eating Betty Crocker

Watching the clock go
Tick Tock
Tick all around go
Tick Tock
Tick all around
A-B-C-D-E-F-G
Gotta wash that stain right out of me
Gotta Boom-shot
Gotta Boom-shot

Gotta crick in my side
Gotta crick in my side
Salt and pepper said "DO NOT MOVE"
(alternate ending)
Salt and pepper said" DO NOT MOVE,
FIRST ONE TO MOVE IS A BLACK-EYED-PEA
SECOND ONE TO MOVE IS A BEAUTY QUEEN
-Dani (White American, Southern USA), http://www.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=63097 "Folklore: Do kid still do clapping rhymes?", September 22, 2003

Comment:
A "rocker" is a rocking chair. "Betty Crocker" is a brand name and trademark for the General Mills corporation. The fictional cook named "Betty Crocker" is particular known for her delicious cookies, cakes, and other baked goods, and for the cookbook which is named after her. Click http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betty_Crocker for more information about Betty Crocker.

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Example #3:
Mis Sue from Alabama
Let's make a movie
Sitting in a rocking chair
Eating Betty Crocker
Watching the clock say
Tick Tock Boom Boom Banana
Tick Tock Boom Boom Banana
Hey white girl whatcha going to do
Momma got the measles Daddy got the flu
Give me a ABCDEFG HIJKLMNOP
Take a flue shot take a flu shot
and FREEZE
-Guest, Mom From Bama, http://www.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=102055&messages=48, "Folklore: Play Ground Hand Jives", May 2, 2008

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Example #4
ET from outer space.
He has an ugly face.
Sittin in a rocket
eatin very tocket

watchin the clock go
Tick tock
tick tock shawally wally
ABCDEFG
You betta get your black hands offa me
You gotta smoooth cho
You gotta smoooth cho

You gotta smooth, smooth, smooth, smooth, smooth.
Now Freeze!
(alternative last line: My mama said "Black eye peas").
-Kiera, African American girl, 8 years old, (Pleasantville, New Jersey) and Kion, African American male, 6 years old, (Pleasantville, New Jersey), 11/8/2008
-snip-
Comments:
Kiara & Kion are my great niece & great nephew. Their mother, Kiemon, told me that she recited this same rhyme when she was a child in the 1980s.

The "ET" in the rhyme is the lead character from the hit 1982 American science fiction movie, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Click http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E.T._the_Extra-Terrestrial for more information about this movie. I'm not sure why that character and his ugly face replaced the standard "Miss Sue from Alabama" lines.
-snip-
The lines "Sittin in a rocket/eatin very tocket" are a folk etymology form of the standard lines "sittin in a rocker/eating Betty Crocker".

Click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2011/10/get-your-black-hands-off-of-me.html for a pancocojams post about the phrase "get your black hands off of me".

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Example #5
E-T.
E-T.
E-T from outer space.
He has an ugly face.
Sitting in a rocker,
Eating Betty Crocker,
Watching the clock go tick-tock
Tick-tock ski-wa-dee-da-dee
A-B-C-D-E-F-G
Wipe those crumbs off of me!
I've got a smooth shirt.
I've got a smooth shirt.
I've got a smooth smooth smooth smooth smooth shirt.

Now freeze!
-KeepOnSingin, http://www.dance.net/topic/7106059/1/General/Do-you-remember-those-old-rhymes-you-d-sing-as-a-kid.html, Sun Apr 20, 2008 08:48 PM

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Example #6
Miss Sue, (clap, clap)
Miss Sue (clap, clap)
Miss Sue from Alabama,
Let's make a movie,
Sittin' in a rocker,
Eatin' Betty Crocker,
Hey wise girl,
Whatcha gonna do,
When your mama's at work,
Baby's got the flu,
Daddy's got the chicken pox,
And so do you?
Take an a b c d e f g,
Take an h i j k l m n o p,
Take a booty shot,
take a booty shot,

And FREEZE!!
-http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20100521121653AAqa6Lq "How does the song miss sue go?"

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Example #7
i have a clapping song
pea soup

pea soup pea soup
flying in a rocket eating merry chocolate

waiting for the clock to go tick tock whirly whirly tick tock
a b c d e f g
wipe those boy germs off of me
moonshine moonshine moonshine clear
first one to laugh is a bumble bee
not me
recited by girls in 2000s
-hannan d; 12/1/2009

Comment:
The line "Pea soup pea soup" is a folk etymology form of the name "Miss Sue". "Flying in a rocket eating merry chocolate" is also a folk etymology form of "sitting in a rocket/eating Betty Crocker". It seems to me that those changes were attempts to make sense out of those lines.

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Example #8:
Miss Sue from Alabama goes wild!!



MzKaYoung, Published on Apr 8, 2012

Play time with the yungans

Lyrics*
Miss Sue from Alabama
They call her Suzianna
Sitting in a rocker
eating Betty Crocker
Watching the clock go
Tick tock a walla walla
Tick tock a walla walla
A-B-C-D-E-F-G
Wash that blue stuff off of me
Say Flu shot! Flu shot!
Turn all around and
FREEZE!

*Transcription by Azizi Powell. Additions and corrections welcome.

Comment:
This is the first time that I've seen "Miss Sue From Alabama" performed as a foot movement rhyme. It appears to me that this rhyme is usually performed as a handclap/hand movement game.

Click http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-svfUMX3BM "Miss Sue Playground Song" for a video of what I think is a rather unique way of performing the "Miss Sue From Alabama" hand game. (The words chanted in that video don't include the "take a smooth shot" line or any variation of that line.)

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UPDATE: June 5, 2016
Example #9
Bus 2, Bus 2 , bus 2 from Alabama
sitting on a rocker, eating betty croker,
watch the clock go tick tock, tick-tock nanny nanny
tick tock, tick-tock nanny nanny
A-B-C-D-E-F-G wash that dirt right off my knee
mone shine, mone shine ,mone shine ,freeze.
Then you see who moves first.

Lacefrontqueen, http://www.lipstickalley.com/showthread.php/43158-Hood-Cheers/page3, 08-18-2006

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Thanks to all those whose examples are featured on this page. Thanks also to the publisher of this video and those

Thank you for visiting pancocojams.

Visitor comments are welcome.

4 comments:

  1. may sou
    may sou from Alabama
    Hey you, Scooby Doo
    Let's skip down to the slough wash ew

    Sitting in a rocker
    eating Betty Crocker
    Watching the clock go
    Tick tock a walla walla
    Tick tock a walla walla
    A-B-C-D-E-F-G
    Wash those boy germs off of me
    Shoo fly shoo fly
    shoo fly
    FREEZE!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Unknown, thanks for sharing that example of "Miss Sue From Alabama".

      it's interesting the words of rhymes change and are passed on to others as a result of folk processing.

      Delete
  2. Miss Sue
    Scooby Doo

    Miss Sue from Alabama
    Her name is Suzieana
    Sittin' in a rocking chair
    Eating butter crackers
    Watchin' that clock go
    Tick-toc , Tick-toc sha wal a wal a
    Tick-toc , Tick-toc sha wal a wal a
    A B C D E F G
    wash that musaha off of me
    a musaha
    a musaha
    a musaha freeze
    now its time for Japanese now FREEZE!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bri, thanks for sharing that version of "Miss Sue".

      I'd love to know some demographical information about this example, particularly where and when you learned it.

      I've never come across an ethnic reference in this rhyme before. I wonder what Japanese people think about that line.

      Delete