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Sunday, December 1, 2013

"When Billy Boy Was One" & "Poor Pinocchio" Hand Clap Rhymes

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post provides text examples of and comments about the hand games "When Billy Boy Was One" & "Poor Pinocchio".

Unfortunately, I've not yet been able to find any videos of these hand clapping games. If you know of any videos of these rhymes, please share those links. Thanks in advance!

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

All copyrights remain with their owners.

CLARIFICATION
By providing information and examples of these rhymes on this blog that focuses on the music and dance of peoples of some Black African descent I am not saying or implying that these rhymes are only chanted by Black people. That is definitely not the case. Although the textual structure, the percussive rhythm, and accompanying hand clap & body patting movements of these rhymes strongly suggest that these rhymes are of African Ameerican origin, I can't proof that that population was the source of these rhymes.

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COMMENTS ABOUT "WHEN BILLY BOY WAS ONE" AND "POOR PINCCHOCHIO"
"When Billy Boy Was One" isn't the folk song "Billy Boy" ("Oh where have you been Billy Boy") and "Poor Pinocchio" isn't the nursery rhyme character "Pinocchio". However, it's highly probably that the characters' names in both of those playground rhymes were lifted from those widely known cultural sources.

"When Billy Boy Was One" (also known as "Billy Boy" and "Billy") and "Poor Pinocchio" are what I call a "life stages" playground rhyme. A "life stages" rhyme is one that chants a line about a person starting with age one and successively moving to an agreed upon age [usually ten]. The first line of those two line rhyming verses usually begins with the word "when" and indicates the person's age. The second line indicates an activity that is supposedly characteristic of that age:

When Billy Boy was one
He learned to suck his thumb

Or the second line ends with a word that rhymes with the age that was given in the first line:

When Billy Boy was seven
He went to heaven

Similarly, here are examples from "Poor Pinocchio":
1*. Poor Pinocchio he learned to suck his thumb, thumb
after thumb after thumb, after thumb after thumb.
Cross over

4*. Poor Pinocchio he learned to shut the door, door after
door, after door, after door. Cross over

[The numbers at the beginning of this example are chanted.]
-snip-
Another form of "life stage" rhyme is one which instead of ages mentions periods pf a person's life -from babyhood to death and sometime beyond. The rhymes "When I Was A Baby" ("When Susie Was A Baby", "When Pebbles Was A Baby" etc.)* are examples of those kinds of life stages children's rhymes. However, in addition to being "life stages" rhymes, "When I Was A Baby" etc. is also a cumulative rhyme, in that each line that is chanted includes a portion from each preceding line.

As is the case with the "When I Was A Baby" rhymes, mimiking actions are performed while chanting the second line of a"When Billy Boy Was One" and "Poor Pinocchio". For instance, while chanting "He learned to suck his thumb", the chanters mimic sucking their thumb. However, I'm not certain if any mimicking action is done for the "went to heaven" line that is usually chanted for the number "seven" verse, unless it is flapping your arms in imitation of angel's wings.

The term "cross down", "cross over" or "crosstown"** is found in each of these rhymes. That word not only serves to separate the successive age verses, but also describes an action or series of actions that is/are always done when that word is said. Read my comments in the "Performance Activity" section about those motions.

*Click http://pancocojams.blogspot.com/2013/11/when-pebbles-was-baby-part-ii.html for Part II of "When Pebbles Was A Baby" to find text examples and videos of those rhymes.

**Crosstown" is probably a folk etymology form of "cross down".


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Performance Activities:
"When Billy Boy Was One" and "Poor Pinocchio" appear to usually be recited as two partner hand clap game with accompanying mimicking motions.

Each of these rhymes includes the word "cross down" or some variant form of that word. Saying "cross down" is a signal to begin a crossing movement that may also be combined with a body patting motion. Here's one description of the "cross down" performance action:
"Cross down - start by crossing both hands over your chest, with your finger tips touching your shoulders, then uncross them and smack your thigh's. Your left hand will smack your left thigh and right hand, right thigh."

I imagine that other "crossing" actions such as doing a criss cross jumping (crossing your feet when you jump) could be done instead of the actions given below.

Performance directions are found in some of the examples below.

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The Tune Used For These Rhymes
Unfortunately, I'm not able to describe the tunes that are used for these rhymes. I have only heard one of those rhymes on one occassion [Example #2 of "Poor Pinocchio"]. The tune for that rhyme was similar if not the same as those found in the videos for "When Pebbles Was A Baby". That tune was also similar to the one that is appears to be commonly used for "Miss Susie Had A Steamboat".

It's reasonable to believe that the tune for these all of these playground rhymes would be the same or similar, as it's my theory that they all came from the same source- the same sources as "Miss Susie Had A Steamboat".

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EXAMPLES OF "WHEN BILLY BOY WAS ONE"
(These examples are given in chronological order based on the date in which the example was posted online, with the oldest dated example given first.)

Example #1: WHEN BILLY BOY WAS ONE
I'm an elementary teacher from Minnesota. I'd like to add a hand clapping, patting game I learned from some first grade girls back in the 1970's. They called it "Billy Boy." As they chanted the lyrics they clapped their own hands, then the opposite hand of their partner, then their own opposite shoulders, and finally their knees.

When Billy Boy was one (sung as two syllables) he learned to suck his thu-umb, (two syllables again.)
Thumb-dee-ah-dah, thumb-dee-ah-dah,
Half past one, cross down,

When Billy boy was two-o, he learned to tie his shoe-oo,
Two-dee-ah-dah, two-dee-ah dah,
Half past two cross down." etc.

three: climb a tree,
four: shut the door,
five: jump and dive,
six: pick up sticks,
seven: got to heaven,
eight: clean his plate,
nine: sing this rhyme,
ten: he learned to say, 'THE END!'"
-Skeezyks, http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=4300 Children's Street Songs, January 31, 2005

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Example #2:WHEN BILLY BOY WAS ONE (Example #2)
Two people sit facing each other. I'll do my best to describe the handclap motions...

Cross down - start by crossing both hands over your chest, with your finger tips touching your shoulders, then uncross them and smack your thigh's. Your left hand will smack your left thigh and right hand, right thigh.

The next step is to clap. When you clap, you begin singing the song.
(For example: (cross down) (Clap), When Billy Boy was one..... (now begin claping with your partner - your right hand claps with their right hand - then you clap your hands together, next your left hand claps with your partner's left hand, then you clap your hands together.

Repeat until the verse is over.

When you start the next verse, begin again with cross down, slap your thighs, When Billy Boy was two...etc.

Verses: When Billy Boy was one, he learned to suck his thumb. Thumb Billy, Thumb Billy, half past one.

When Billy Boy was two, he learned to tie his shoe. Shoe Billy, Shoe Billy, half past two.

When Billy Boy was three, he learned to climb a tree. Tree Billy, Tree Billy, half past three.

When Billy Boy was four, he learned to close the door. Door Billy, Door Billy, half past four.

When Billy Boy was five, he learned to swim and dive. Dive Billy, Dive Billy, half past five.

When Billy Boy was six, he learned to pick up sticks. Sticks Billy, Sticks Billy, half past six.

When Billy Boy was seven, he learned to pray to heaven. Heaven Billy, Heaven Billy, half past seven.

When Billy Boy was eight, he learned to roller skate. Skate Billy, Skate Billy, half past eight.

When Billy Boy was nine, he learned to tell the time. Time Billy, Time Billy, half past nine.

When Billy Boy was ten, he learned to catch the hens. Hens Billy, Hens Billy, half past ten. Cross down, then end!
-Jackie; http://cocojams.com/content/handclap-jump-rope-and-elastics-rhymes, 28/28/2007

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Example #3: WHEN BILLY BOY WAS ONE
then there was about billy boy
cross down when billy boy was 1
he learned to suck his thumb
thumb after thumb after half past one

2 was tie his shoe
3 was climb a tree
4 was shut the door
5 was swim and dive
6 was pick up sticks
7 was pray to Heaven
8 was shut the gate
9 was pay the fine
10 was say the end

and at the end it was
... end after end after half past ten
cross down the end.
-Guest, Julie, http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=4300 Children's Street Songs, December 5, 2007

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EXAMPLES OF "POOR PINOCCHIO"
(These examples are given in chronological order based on the date in which the example was posted online, with the oldest dated example given first.)

Example #1: POOR PINOCCHIO
1. Poor Pinocchio he learned to suck his thumb, thumb
after thumb after thumb, after thumb after thumb.
Cross over *
2. Poor Pinocchio he learned to tie his shoe, shoe after
shoe, after shoe, after shoe . Cross over *
3. Poor Pinocchio he learned to climb a tree, tree after tree,
after tree, after tree. Cross over *
4. Poor Pinocchio he learned to shut the door, door after
door, after door, after door. Cross over *
5. Poor Pinocchio he liked to kick bee hives, hives after
hives, after hives, after hives. Cross over *
6. Poor Pinocchio he learned to pick up sticks, sticks after
sticks, after sticks ,after sticks. Cross over *
7. Poor Pinocchio he learned all about heaven, heaven after
heaven, after heaven, after heaven. Cross over *
8. Poor Pinocchio he learned to shut the gate, gate after
gate, after gate after gate. Cross over *

[and so on up to 11-use any word that rhymes with those numbers]
* When you say "cross over" you fold your arms crisscross over your chest, and the other girl you are doing the handclap with does the same thing at the same time.
-Natashia, (White female, age 13; Hinton, Alberta, Canada; October 21, 2005
-snip-
[The numbers at the beginning of this example are chanted.]

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Example #2: POOR PINOCCHIO
I vaguely remember a clapping song that went something like

Poor Pinocchio one
He used to suck his thumb
But poor P-I-N-O-C-C-H-I-O
cross down and

Poor Pinocchio two
He (something something) shoe (learned to tie?)
But poor P-I-N-O-C-C-H-I-O

that's all I remember...does this ring a bell to anyone else?
-Enjal, http://msgboard.snopes.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic;f=95;t=000442;p=1 "Topic: Skipping and clapping rhymes", 20 February 2003

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Thanks to all those who I quoted in this post.

Thanks for visiting pancocojams.

Visitor comments are welcome.

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