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Monday, December 9, 2013

I Am A Pretty Little First Grader (a variant form of "I'm A Pretty Little Dutch Girl")

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post documents a variant form of the children's song/rhyme "I Am A Little Dutch Girl" (also known as "I Am A Pretty Little Dutch Girl"). In that variant form the girls' school year is substited for the referent "Dutch girl".

There are multiple children's rhymes that begin with the words "I am a (pretty) little Dutch girl." The rhymes that I'm focusing on in this post are those which begin with the lines "I'm a pretty little Dutch girl/as pretty as I can be"...[end of quote]. Many of those rhymes also include a verse that begins with the line
"One day when I was walking". The addendum to this post includes beginning lines and links to other children's rhymes that have "little Dutch girl" in their title.

I first noted this change in the United States in the 1990s. However, it may have occurred earlier. The examples of this rhyme that I directly collected [from in-person contacts] were from African American girls ages 6-12 years, Pittsburgh, Pennslyvania [with the exception of one example in which Vietnamese girls recited this rhyme with their African American schoolmates in an elementary school that was more than 99% Black.]

I've found additional examples online of the "school year" form of "Pretty Little Dutch Girl" rhyme. The contributors of those examples didn't indicate their race/ethnicity.

The referent "Dutch girl" may have originally been dropped because the girls reciting that rhyme weren't of "Dutch" descent, and/or may not have known what "Dutch" meant. Nowadays, I think that girls recite the school year version of "Pretty Little Dutch girl" because that's the version that they've heard other people recite.

Read my comment below this post for some ideas about the larger meaning of what changes in this playground rhyme -and other playground rhymes- may mean.

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TEXT EXAMPLES
(Examples are posted in chronological order based on either their collection date or the date that they were posted online.)

Example #1:
Wooble Wooble Wooble and the deep blue sea
I am a little __ * first grade
as pretty as can __ be be.
And all the boys around my house
go crazy over __ me me.

My boyfriend's name is __ Yellow.
He comes from Ala__bama
with 25 toes
and a pickle on his nose
and this is how the story goes.

One day I was ah __ walkin
I saw my boyfriend __ talking
to a very pretty girl
with strawberry curls.
And this is what she said

"I L-O-V-E __ love you."
"I K-I-S-S __ kiss you."
"I A-D-O-R-E __ adore you"
So S-T-O-P. STOP!
- elementary school age African American and Vietnamese girls {6 years old} Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 2000
-snip-
*The dash indicates that you pause for a beat before saying the next word or the next syllable.

Notice the introductory line in this example and most of the other examples.

My notes for this rhyme indicates that it was performed as a group hand slap game. If those notes are correct, and weren't a description of another hand game, those girls played that game differently than I observed other girls playing it. In my other observations of this hand game, "I Am A Pretty Little ___ Grader" was performed as a non-competitive hand clap game, meaning a partner or group hand clapping routine where no one was declared "out" at the end of a recitation because her hand was slapped at the last syllable that is chanted.

Click http://www.cocojams.com/content/handclap-jump-rope-and-elastics-rhymes for the comments that I wrote about how this rhyme was performed.

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Example #2:
Zing Zing Zing at the bottom of the sea.
I am a little __* second grade
as pretty as can __ be be.
And all the boys around my house
go crazy over __ me me.

My boyfriend's name is __ Yellow.
He comes from Ala__bama
with 25 toes
and a pickle on his nose
and this is how the story goes.
One day I was ah __ walkin
I saw my boyfriend __ talking
to a very pretty girl
with cherry pie curls
And this is what she said
"I L-O-V-E __ love you."
"I K-I-S-S __ kiss you."
"I A-D-O-R-E __ adore you"
So S-T-O-P. STOP!
1-2-3-4
Get your black hands off of me!
- Diarra, K'azsa, and Michelle (African American girls), Fort Pitt Elementary School, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Septemper 2004

*The dash indicates that you pause for a beat before saying the next word or the next syllable.

Editor:
I collected this example while visiting my elementary school teacher daughter’s after-school classroom in the beginning of a new school year. In this variant version of the "Dutch Girl" rhyme, two of the girls started to sing “I’m a little first grade”, but changed to “second grade” because they remembered that they had moved up to that grade. "First grade” and “second grade” means “first grader” and “second grader” (children in the first or second grade [division of school year] of elementary school after the kindergarten year of schooling.)

After they had finished performing that rhyme, I asked the girls which grade they usually use for that rhyme. They told me that the grade mentioned depends on the grade/s of the girls reciting this song.

In April 2010, I collected the same rhyme from two 9 year old African American girls (Takeya and Alexus) who live in the same neighborhood as Fort Pitt Elementary School. [When I collected this example, that school which is now closed had changed its name to "Fort Pitt Accelerated Learning Academy"]. When the rhyme called for the girls to give their grades, one girl chanted "I am a second grader" and the other girl chanted "I am a third grader". Both girls said the "get your black hands off of me" line.

Click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2011/10/get-your-black-hands-off-of-me.html for my comments about that "get your black hands off of me" line in certain children' rhymes. Also, read the comment about that line which is found after Example #5 in this post.

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Example #3:
imma little six grader
as pretty as can be be
my boyfriend name is bow wow
he lives in ohio
and this is how my story goes
one day I was walking
I saw my boyfriend talking
to the ugliest girl
in the whole wide world
and this is how my story goes
k-i-s-s kiss you
l-o-v-e love you
m-i-s-s miss you
and this is how my story goes
a b c d
so keep yo hands away from me.
- http://www.home-school.com.au/resource/skipping-rope-jump-rope-hopscotch, March 21, 2005
-snip-
*"Bow wow" is probably the stage name of the young African American R&B singer.

It's interesting to note that the rhyming name "Jello" or "Mello from the land of Jello" that's found in many "standard" versions of "I'm A Pretty Little Dutch Girl" or the rhyming name "Tony" from "Bologna" have been replaced by the name of a Black male celebrity who is popular with younger females. Read the version given as #5 for an example of another celebrity's name that is used in a version of "I'm A Pretty Little Furst Grader".

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Example #4
Sea sea sea at the bottom of the sea!
I am a little __ 3rd grader
As cute as can__ be
My boyfriend's name is ___ Jell-o
He comes from Ala__bama
With a booger from his nose
All the way to his toes
And this is how my story goes!
One day when I was __ walking
I heard my boyfriend __ talking
To the prettiest girl
With strawberry curls
And this is what he said:
I L-O-V-E Love you!
I K-I-S-S Kiss you!
S-T-O-P STOP! Don't move!
-Becky; http://hubpages.com/hub/Recess-is-BACK-Hand-Clapping-Games, 2009

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Example #5
I am a pretty __ first grader
As pretty as can___ be be.
My boyfriend's name is__ Chris Brown*
He lives in Ala__bama.
One day when I was___walking
I saw my boyfriend __ talking
To the ugliest girl in the whole wide world.
And this is what he said.
I K-I-S-S
I M-I-S-S miss you.
I L-O-V-E love you.
ABCDEFG
Get your black hands off of me.**
I K-I-S-S Kiss you!
-Naijah S.; (African American female, 9 years old; Hazelwood section of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; January 14, 2011; Collected by Azizi Powell 1/14/2011
-snip-
The dash indicates that the chanter pauses one beat before saying the next word or the next syllable.

I met Naijah and her mother and baby sister when they came early for a community African story telling session that I was asked to do in a local Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania library. That session was sponsored by a chapter of a historically Black Greek lettered sorority. While we were waiting for other children to come, Naijah was playing with her computer tablet and I asked her to share with me some rhymes that she knew. Naijah recited this rhyme without my asking for it by name. She said "Girls say the grade they are in when they say this rhyme (like first grade or second grade or fifth grade)." Naijah also said that when she was in the second grade she forgot and said "I am a pretty first grader".

*"Chris Brown" is a currently popular young African American R&B singer and actor. Besides his popularity, I think that Chris Brown's last name "Brown" is one reason why he joins a long line in children's playground rhymes of other people or characters whose last name is "Brown"-for instance "Buster Brown", "Charlie Brown", "James Brown", and probably others.

**Naijah said "The reason why the girl in the rhyme said "Get your black hands off of me" is "because she was mad at him because he was cheating on her".

Another rhyme that Naijah recited for me "ET From Outer Space" also included the "Get your black hand off of me" line. I said to Naijah that I heard that "get your Black hands off of me" line before in other rhymes, and I wondered if if meant that people were ashamed of being Black. Naijah looked shocked and said "I enjoy my heritage".

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ADDENDUM: INFORMATION ABOUT THE "I'M A PRETTY LITTLE DUTCH GIRL" RHYME
From
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pretty_Little_Dutch_Girl
"Pretty Little Dutch Girl" is a children's nursery rhyme, clapping game and jump-rope rhyme. It has a Roud Folk Song Index number of 12986...

Origins and distribution
The origins of the rhyme are obscure. The tune of the song is similar to "A Sailor Went to Sea" and "Miss Suzie Had A Steamboat" (though some notes are removed to account for the double-syllable words "pretty" and "little", and some notes are added in). The earliest record found so far is for New York around 1940.[1] It seems to have spread over the USA by the 1950s and reached Britain in 1959, where it was taken up very quickly across the country to become one of the most popular skipping rhymes among girls.[1]"
-snip-
“Record” here means “documented use”

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There are at least three other families of children's songs/playground rhymes that have refer to "little Dutch girl".
The rhymes that I'm referring to begin with the lines
"I'm a little dutch girl dressed in blue/these are the things i can do"

Or
"I am a little Dutch Girl, a Dutch Girl, a Dutch Girl, I am a little Dutch Girl, a Dutch Girl I am" [or “from over the sea"]

Or
"There was a little Dutch boy and a little Dutch girl,
In a chalet on the hill.
Tick tock, tick tock went the funny old clock"

For examples of those "little Dutch girl" rhymes other than those which include the lines "as pretty as can be" and the verse that begins with "one day when I was walking" click http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=29995 and http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=37757.

The song/rhymes that I'm referring to begin with

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VIDEO OF A STANDARD VERSION OF "I'M A PRETTY LITTLE DUTCH GIRL"

Pretty little dutch girl



Lauren Gabriel, Uploaded on Nov 18, 2010
-snip-
This is a clip from the 1988 Wee Sing video "Grandpa's Magic Toys". Here are the words to that version:
I am a pretty little Dutch girl
As pretty as I can be
And all the boys in the neighborhood
Are crazy over me

My boyfriend's name is Mello
He comes from the land of Jello
With pickles for his toes
and a cherry for his nose
And that's the way my story goes
-snip-
The woman dressed up in a traditional Dutch outfit sings this song while jumping rope. The second time she sings the song, the adults and children perform a partner hand clap routine without reciting the rhyme. These two performance activities may reflect that doing hand clap routines while chanting rhymes was beginning [?] to be the preferred activity rather than jumping rope while reciting the same rhymes. In the USA now, it appears to me that almost all the jump rope rhymes are now hand clap rhymes.

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1 comment:

  1. It occurs to me that the changes in the words to "I'm A Pretty Little Dutch Girl" and the topical changes that have been made in the text of a number of other contemporary American playground rhymes suggest that children consider it normal to change things in their environment to better fit them. Instead of considering the words of rhymes or songs as being incapable of change, American children (and probably other children throughout the world) take a flexible approach to those words, and act on the belief that those words can be changed -at least as far as their group is concerned - to better fit that group.

    I hasten to say that I think that most children probably don't recognize that they are making changes in the words of rhymes- unless those rhymes call for different words with each iteration like the soloist's portion of some foot stomping cheers. But when children, pre-teens, or teenagers are shown [on YouTube viewer comment threads or elsewhere] that other people have different versions of the rhyme that they recite/d, it's become increasingly common for them to say something like "This is the way I learned it" instead of "Your example is wrong. Here's the right way to say that rhyme."

    The notion that there are multiple versions of rhymes and no one version is the right version is actually a revolutionary concept which is reflective of the normalization of multiple choices that people experience and can make up for themselves in everyday life - from their internet screen name and screen saver to the ring tune that they chose or make up for their telephone.

    This flexible, expanding the boundaries of what is standard approach to life is also evident in more "heavy duty" ways in the increased acceptance of people of different races, ethnicities, religions, and sexual orientations, and the recognition that there are different definitions of "family" and all of those ways of making a family are acceptable.

    This flexibility also is reflected in the recognition that there are multiple standards of beauty ... and the recognition that a Black man or Latino or Native American man or man of another race/ethnicity besides White can also be Santa Claus.

    It occurs to me that this flexible way of experiencing the world may be one result of multiculturalism instead of the so-called melting pot theory where there was only one right way of looking and worshiping, and experiencing life.

    Congratulations to children for rejecting that world view, perhaps without even knowing that they are doing so.

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