Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Black Sorority Members' Memories Of Children's Risque Rhymes

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post is Part I of a series on risqué playground rhymes and bawdy nursery rhymes.

Part I contains selected examples of "old school" playground rhymes & cheers from a 2003 discussion thread.

Click for Part II of this post.

Part II contains selected examples from a Mudcat Folk music discussion thread on "Nasty Nursery Rhymes". The selected examples were posted in that thread from 2001 to 2007.

WARNING - No profanity and/or sexually explicit language are included in the selected examples presented in this post. For that reason, I consider the examples in this post to be only "mildly risqué". However, a number of examples that are included in the websites that are the source for Part I and Part II of this post include profanity and/or are sexually explicit.

It's important to note that most of the examples from that six page discussion thread contain no risqué content. I've included all but one of the risqué examples that are found in that thread. The example that I didn't include includes profanity, although those rhyming words are represented by asterisks.

Also, please be aware that there's at least one other discussion titled "old school chants" that provides examples of historically Black Greek lettered fraternity & sorority chants. That discussion also includes profanity and sexually explicit content.

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

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Definitions for "risqué" are "referring to sex in a rude and slightly shocking way" and "verging on impropriety or indecency"

Definitions for "bawdy" are "obscene, lewd. 2. : boisterously or humorously indecent."

From Unprintable Ozark Folksongs and Folklore: Roll me in your arms, Volume 1
by Vance Randolph (University of Arkansas Press, 1992, p. 1)
“The collector’s ostensible control over the folk material they collect and publish - or refuse to collect and do not publish- naturally operates in both the negative and positive sense…When no one would admit, for example, to the existence of children's erotic folklore (or erotic life), none was to be seen. ... and most important for English and American children's bawdy jokes and rhymes. Now that a few bold collectors, mostly women, have been courageously willing to admit children’s folk-erotica into their formerly lily-pure collections, riddles, catches and pranks, and other such lore has been relatively easy to create, by means of artfully untended tape recorders.
I believe that because blogging is relatively anonymous, the internet allows people to publicly share folk material -such as bawdy (dirty) rhymes - that they would be unlikely to publicly recite during face to face interviews. As such, blogging removes the need for hidden microphones or cameras to capture this illusive folkloric material. However, two downsides of collecting from the internet are the difficulty of confirming the authenticity of the material and the difficulty of collecting and confirming demographical information from the contributors.

Number of participants and Geographical location:
A total of 29 unduplicated bloggers participated in this discussion thread which had a total of 84 posts of examples and/or comments).

Only a few of the participants in this online discussion indicated their geographical location. Also, the geographical location that was cited may not have been where the bloggers lived when they chanted these rhymes as children. For that reason, it's not possible to determine how widespread certain rhymes were that were mentioned by more than one blogger. In spite of that, these examples clearly show that certain types of rhymes - such as hand clap rhymes, and the group/soloist form of what I call "foot stomping cheers" were found in multiple regions of the United States.

Here are the states that were given by these bloggers: Atlanta, Georgia; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; California; Chicago, Illinois; Florida; Memphis, Tennessee; Miami, Florida; New Jersey; New Orleans, Louisiana; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Prince George County, Maryland; and Texas

Defining "Old School Chants" By Decades
I believe that most of these "old school" examples are from the early 1980s to the mid 1980s. For instance, although one blogger gave a sub-heading for her post of "the 70s", three bloggers shared examples of a Coca Cola ad jingle ("Have A Coke And A Smile" that aired in 1981. Also, one blogger mentioned her age in 2003 as 23 years old, another blogger indicated that she remembered the rhyme she shared "from the 1985-ish Houston [Texas], and another rhyme included the slang word "fly" which gained popularity because of the 1995 Boogie Boy's record "Fly Girl".

That said, certain rhymes that I've collected online from 1984 on that are noticeable absent from this collection. I'm specifically referring to what I call "long form" examples of "Down By The Bank Of The Hanky Panky" (or similar rhymes) that mention Michael Jackson and allude to his hair on fire accident in 1984 while singing his hit song "Billy Jean" during the filming of a Pepsi commercial. A number of those "long form" Hanky Panky rhymes include the verse "Coca Cola Came To Town". While that rhyme is included in that discussion thread, it's not linked to the "Down By The Banks Of The Hanky Panky" rhyme. Also, noticeable absent is the "I pledge allegiance to the flag" verse that I've only found to date with long form "Michael Jackson" examples of "Down By The Banks Of The Hanky Panky".* The absence of those rhymes suggests to me that most of these examples were chanted by those bloggers prior to 1984. An alternative theory is that these bloggers knew about those examples, but refrained from sharing them because they were loyal to the African American pop artist who was highly regarded by many African Americans and non- African Americans.

Racial demographics
Because of a number of factors-including certain screen names, the use of certain vernacular English in some examples & some comments, and the inclusion of certain types of rhymes & cheers- I'm very certain that all of the participants in this discussion were Black (and, more specifically, were African American).

Read my comment below about how I deduced the race of the bloggers, and why I believe that citing the race/ethnicity of folkloric contributors is important.

*Click for Part I of a two part post on my cultural website about "References To Michael Jackson In Playground Rhymes".

These examples are numbered for referencing purposes. The blogger's name, any geographical information, and the date the example/comment was written online are given before the example or comment.

In some cases, I've added a brief comment in brackets before the quoted example or comment. In some cases, after the word "snip" (end of quote), I've also added a brief editorial comment to explain something about the featured rhyme or comment.


1. ADivine08, 3-25-2003
"this one is for Chi-town!!
12 x 12 is 144 if the bed breaks down you can do it on the ....
We may not have known all the twelves but we knew this one !"
"Chi-town" = Chicago, Illinois

"knew all the twelves" = means knew the twelve time tables (how to multiple by 12).

2. RedefinedDiva (Atlanta, Georgia / New Orleans, Louisiana), 3-25-2003

When I was a teenager, teenager, teenager
When I was a teenager, teenager, teenager
I went (no words--just pretend to primp in the mirror)
All night long
All night long

When I was a woman, woman, woman
When I was a woman, woman, woman
I went (no words--just make kissing sounds)
All night long
All night long

When I got married, married, married
When I got married, married, married
I went (no words--just pretend to "push it")
All night long
All night long

When I had a baby, baby, baby
When I had a baby, baby, baby
I went (no words--just waddle like a pregnant woman)
All night long
This life progression rhyme begins with “When I was a baby” and ends with “When I died”

Bamboozled, 3-25-2003 [Comment]
"I think we should include some "new school" ones as well, because while some of ours may be a little risqué, some of the ones today are just plain ol' nasty. I've had to give my niece "the look" on several occasions for some of that mess. I'm going to ask her to tell me the words and I'll post them."
After she quoted the “push it” verse given above (in Example #2), Bamboozled wrote on that same date:
"Okay, I retract my former statement. Some of ours were just as scandalous, LOL."

3. CrimsonTide4, 3-25-2003

[This was written in reference to Twileelee rhyme* which was quoted on that page]:

YEAH!!!! Thanks GINA!!

But we also had another R rated verse

Mama's on bottom
Papa's on top
Baby singing "Get down Pop"
Rockin Robin Tweet . . .

or maybe it was grandma and grandpa . . . that I have forgotten."
"R rated" - "a movie designation meaning that the movie is restricted for anyone under 17 unless you have an adult or parent with you. The content is considered to be too 'mature' for younger viewers."
Click for a pancocojams post on "Tweeleelee" (or similar spellings).

1savvydiva (Prince George County, Maryland), 3-25-2003 [Comment]
"You was an 'omanish lil' thang!!!
The word "‘omanish” (“womanish”) may have been coined by that blogger. That word is an adaptation of the African American vernacular term “mannish”. "mannish" = a young person who acts as though they are sexually aware. Children, pre-teens, and teenagers who are mannish are trying to act like a man, that is, they are talking and acting more “grown” than they actually are. Although it would seem that the word "mannish" refers only to males, there are no gender qualities implicit in this term. Females can also be described as acting "mannish", and a mannish girl doesn't necessarily act masculine. Another African American vernacular word for a mannish boy or girl is acting (behaving/ talking as though they are "fast" (although it seems to me that this term is used more for girls.) "Fast" may be used because the girl or boy is growing up [too] quickly (too fast). The words "fast", "grown", and "mannish" aren't considered compliments when adults use them to refer to a boy or a girl. However, in the context of this sorority discussion thread, "‘omanish” and "mannish" probably are somewhat of a compliment, although note that many of the bloggers who shared those risqué rhymes hastened to add that they really didn't know what they were talking about when they chanted those rhymes.

4. Symphony08 (Illinois), 3-26-2003
"One of my line sisters remembered this "mannish" version of Tell It:

My name is ___________ (Tell it, tell it)
I'm on the line (Tell it, tell it)
smoking reefer and drinking wine
And you know what (What?)
And you know what (What?)
I have a man (Tell it, tell it)
He looks alright (Tell it, tell it)
But he can do it do it do it do it allllll night (Say what!)

She swears they used to say this in elementary school (We're both 23/24). I wonder what those little girls are chanting now.
“line sister” - a female who pledged the same chapter of the sorority along with you

"I'm on the line" = probably on the telephone line (talking on the telephone)

"do it" = have sex with me

This discussion thread included three versions of "Tell It". One version of that cheer wasn't risque. Another risqué version is given below.


5. Miss Mocha, 3-28-2003
"Tell it

My name is Mocha (Tell it, tell it)
I'm on the line (Tell it, tell it)
I wanna do it (tell it, tell it)
with Nas' sign (Tell it, tell it)
And you know what? (what?)
My man will rough you up.

The alternate version said, "and you know what? My man don't do enough".
"with Nas' sign" - with a man who is Nas’ astrological sun sign
Nas is an African American rapper, songwriter, and actor. Since his debut album wasn't released until 1994, this cheer with his name is either a later version of the cheer that Miss Mocha remembered from her childhood, pre-teen, or teen years*, or she updated this cheer by substituted Nas' name instead of chanting the name of a no longer current celebrity.
Added July 24, 2017
"Nas" may have been mentioned on purpose in this rhyme. A commenter in a 2005 discussion entitled "THEM NASTY SONGS WE SUNG AS LIL GIRLS" mentioned Nas's "The Boyfriend Song" included a version of a sexualized children's rhyme.
From THEM NASTY SONGS WE SUNG AS LIL GIRLS..... Posted on 04-27-2005
"..ladies yall remember playin Handme games and singing them circle songs at recess and just playin on the block? Wellllllll, i just heard my nieces singing them and it was like AHHHHH not my innocent babies, do they know what they are saying? and it occured to me that, when we were little singing them, we knew they were bad, but didn't know why. THESE fast lil mofos prolly DO know EXACTLY what they are saying….. case in point, the Boyfriend song(nas used part of it in Oochie Wally) "My boyfriend is a cutie he really, really, really, really busts my booty He really, really, really turns me around(and out) He really, really, really criss-crossed me down He really, really, really swam through the ocean He really, really, really put his thang in motion… He really had me saying ooo,(sss) ah ah,(sss) ooo-ooo,(sss) ah ah(say what?) ooo,(sss) ah ah,(sss) ooo-ooo,(sss) ah ah". [/i] or Telephone "Tel, a phone, tel-tel a phone Tel, a phone, tel-tel a phone Hey Tori? (what?) Hey Tori? (what?) Somebody's on the Telephone (who is it?) Your boyfriend (I know what he want He want my lips, my tips, my booty and my hips)" THATS why kids are fast these days"
I'm not sure which Nas song this is as there's no Nas song with the title "The Boyfriend Song".
-end of 7/24/2017 addition
The line "My man will rough you up" means "My boyfriend will beat you up [if you bother me]

The line "My man don't do enough" = The female speaker is bragging that she wants even more sex than her man is giving her.

It's important to emphasize that these girls were probably all talk and no action. However, these examples document the high value that "street wise" African American girls were supposed to place on being tough and being sexually attractive.

6. 12dn94dst, 3-31-2003
"group: get in the car
press the gas
move out the way and let Kelli pass

(Kelli gets in the middle/out front & does her dance)

group: she said whoop wop (doing dance)
Kelli: look @ that booty
group: whoomp wop
Kelli: ain't it purty
group: whoop wop
kelli: u want some? u ain't gettin none!
"booty" = butt

"u want some? u ain't gettin none!" = do you want some sex? You aren't getting any from me.

"Get In The Car" is a Dance style foot stomping cheer. During her turn as the soloist, each girl is supposed to come up with a different dance move (usually from currently popular R*B/Hip-Hop dances, but also from "old school" dances (ones that used to be popular, but have been replaced by newer dances.)

Eclipse (Atlanta, Georgia), 3-31-2003 [Comment]
"Y'all shole was some fast lil' heifahs!! LOL Talkin' bout bootys and getting some! LOL (shaking my head while knowing I said some of the same stuff!)
"shole" = sure

“heifahs” (heifers) young cows = young females ; “getting some” = getting some sex

Remember, all of these bloggers were members of university based Greek lettered sororities, and therefore they knew how to speak and write standard American English. This is an example of purposely code switching to a Southern (down home) dialectic form of African American vernacular English.

7. Kisha, 4-01-2003
"I remeber getting in trouble at an after school program for this one
James Brown glad to meet ya
Drop you're drawls and follow me
In the bushes we may go
lay down real slow
Won't yo mama be surprised
To see yo belly rise
Won't you father be disgusted
To see your cherry busted


The thing is I didn't know what I was talking about.
There was another one that went something like

George Washington was a great old man
He jumped out the window with a stick in his hand.

The managed kids didn't say stick but something that I want even write.
I remember that!"
drawls [also given as "draws"] = ["drawers"] underpants
The last four lines of that first rhyme remind me of the sexualized versions of the rhyme that I refer to as "We wear our hair in curls". Click for a Mudcat discussion thread that I started in 2009 about that rhyme.

“Managed” kids may be another word for “mannish”.


8. bitsy196, 6-25-2003

we are here
to say hello to Mocha

Mocha is my name
and cheering is my game
Pink and purple are my colors
don't you worry 'bout my lovers.
(Uhm she think she bad)
Correction baby, I know I'm bad.
(Uhm, she think she cool)
Cool enough to steal your dude.
(Uhm, she think she fine)
Fine enough to blow his mind."
“Hello” is probably a folk etymology title for the Introduction/Confrontational foot stomping cheer whose title is usually given as “Hula Hulu”. That same discussion thread includes another example of that cheer with the beginning line “who now who now”.

Notice that the girl says "don't you worry 'bout my loverS" and is bragging about stealing another person's "dude". Although the girls who recite these cheers are probably play acting (in the theatrical sense of that term), this attitude reflects real life, and permeates R&B/Hip Hop music and other African American music forms including fraternity & sorority cheers such as
"1 and 1 and 1 make three
You better watch your man cause your man is watching me"
[That cheer goes on to say how members of that particular sorority can get any man they want
Click for examples of that rhyme. I've also found those same beginning lines in certain foot stomping cheers.

"Bad", "cool", "fine", and "blowing someone's mind" are all African American vernacular English terms. Click for
"The Slang Meaning Of "Bad" In Songs & Playground Cheers"

This completes Part I of this series on Risqué Children's Rhymes.

Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post.

Thanks for visiting pancocojams.

Visitor comments are welcome.


  1. While I recognize that the confidentiality of children should be maintained, I believe that folkorists should collect & cite all demographical information that they can, including contributors' age, gender, nationality, geographical location, and race/ethnicity.

    I believe that race/ethnicity is important to collect and to cite with folkloric material such as children's rhymes, cheers, and singing games for cultural and sociological reasons. For instance, knowing the racial identity of a contributor of a rhyme may help explain topical references and slang words & phrases in that rhyme. Also, studying the type of rhymes & cheers that particular populations of children prefer, what values are reflected in those examples, and how those examples are performed can provide information and insights about the particular population. Furthermore, I believe that changes in rhymes such as the inclusion of racialized references and confrontational language in rhymes such as "Down Down Baby" * which previously did not have that content reflect the changes and stresses that have occurred and continue to occur in integrated school settings.

    Since 1985, but particularly since 2001 my direct collection & internet collection of contemporary English language playground rhymes suggest that very few of those rhymes refer to race/ethnicity. Nevertheless, I believe that race/ethnicity significantly influences the types of playground rhymes that members of specific populations tend to prefer and significantly influence how those rhymes tend to be performed. [with "rhymes" being a generic term for all types of rhyming verses, cheers/chants, and singing games]. Having said that, there are many instances of rhymes originating with one population and one language being chanted by children throughout the world, regardless of those children's race, ethnicity, and nationality. And it is also true that not everyone who identifies with a particular cultural population- for instance "African American" - knows and likes the same type of rhymes. However, there is an aesthetic to playground rhymes that is nurtured, encouraged, and promoted within particular populations (while other types of rhymes are disdained) the same as there is an aesthetic for specific types of vocal & instrumental music in that is encouraged in that same population.

    I believe the 2003 thread on "old school chants" is important because it provides information about the types of rhymes that 34 African American females remembered and what they thought of some of those rhymes.
    One of the reasons why that discussion thread is so important is because there's not been a great deal of folkloric study of contemporary African American children's rhymes. My plan is to publish a list of those rhymes on a dedicated page of my cultural website. That page will also include examples from that "old school chants" page that I haven't found elsewhere, or which aren't as familiar as some of the other examples those young women remembered. When that page is published, I'll add a link to this post.

  2. In spite of the fact that it appears to me that many if not most discussion threads feature comments by members of traditionally White sororities & fraternities, and in spite of the fact that race isn’t mentioned in the words of the rhymes or chants or in the discussion participants’ comments, I have deduced that all of the participants in this particular discussion are African American because

    1. some of the screen names in this discussion identify those participants as members of historically Black Greek lettered sororities [see that list below]

    2. some of the signage under the participants' examples or comments identify the participant’s historically Black Greek lettered sorority & her sorority chapter

    3. most Greek lettered sororities and fraternities in the USA are segregated by race/ethnicity (although there are a some, but not many members of historically Black sororities or fraternities who aren’t Black and there are some, but not many members of traditionally White sororities or fraternities who are Black or are members of other People of Color populations. And there are some multicultural sororities /fraternities)

    4. African American vernacular English is used in the title of that discussion thread, in some of the rhyme/cheer examples, and in some of the comments
    Examples: gone girl, do yo thang, do yo' thang, do yo thang [Little Sally Walker], “You was an 'omanish lil' thang!!!

    6. A number of what I refer to as "foot stomping cheers" are given in this "old school chant" discussion thread. That sub-set of cheerleader cheers which combines a particular form of call & response chanting with the performance of choreographed steppin' is a relatively new form of girls' recreational activity. My research strongly suggests that foot stomping cheers began around the mid 1970s in the Washington DC/ Virginia/ North Carolina area. I believe that the 1970s and that geographical area are significant because that was when & where historically Black fraternity & sorority steppin' started to become more prominent. In addition, during that same time period and in that same location, African Americans created stomp & shake cheerleading. Furthermore, the call & response Go Go music was created by African Americans during that same time period and location (the Washington D.C. area.) I don't think that it's a coincidence that all these art forms came into being at the same time.

    *These names identify the participants as belonging to a historically Black Greek lettered sororities
    AKA2D (AKA=Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc

    CrimsonTide4 [Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc - That sorority’s colors are crimson & cream.)


    sigmadiva [Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc),

    AKA2D '91 [this may be the same person as AKA2D)

    ZTAMiami [Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc]

    NinjaPoodle (A poodle is a symbol for Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc.)


    12dn94dst [DST= Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc]


    Pretty edAKAted

    My apologies if I missed any screen names that include a sorority reference.

    My thanks to all those bloggers who posted to that discussion thread, whether your screen name is mentioned in this list, and whether I featured your examples/comments in the above post or not!