Wednesday, March 12, 2014

"It's Not Because You're Dirty..." Line In Children's Rhymes, Part I

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post is Part I of a two part series that documents the use of the lines "It's Not Because You're Dirty, It's Not Because You're Clean" lines in children's rhymes. Part I provides examples of the Irish children's rhyme/song "Me Mother Has Gone To Church" which predate the "Apple on A Stick" rhymes.

Part I also provides some information and comments about old attitudes about margarine and whooping cough, both of which are mentioned in that Irish children's rhyme.

Click for Part II of this series.

That post provides a few examples and videos of the American children's rhyme "Apple On A Stick" which includes the "not because you're dirty, not because you're clean" line and an adapted version of the subsequent line from that Irish children's song.

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

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who are featured in these videos and thanks to all those who are quoted in this post, including the contributors of these rhyme examples. Thanks also to the publishers of these videos on YouTube.

"It's not because you're dirty lines are found in an Irish children's rhyme/song "Me Mother Has Gone To Church". It's my position that those from that Irish rhyme served as the prototype for lines that begin with the "not because you're dirty/not because you're clean" pattern in the large family of American children's rhyme "Apple On A Stick" (or similar titles).

Here's the lyrics to that song:

(Irish Kids' Chant)

Ahem! Ahem!
Me mother is gone to church.
She told me not to play with you
Because you're in the dirt.
It isn't because you're dirty,
It isn't because you're clean,
It's because you have the whoopin' cough
And eat margarine!

Here's another example of that rhyme/song from "Nasty Nursery Rhymes" posted by Aidan Crossey, 06 Dec 01 - 10:22 AM
"When I was wee we used to recite the following nursery rhyme (Christ knows how these things wash up on the shores of memory, but it just did!).
Ah-choo, ah-choo, me mother has gone to church
She told me not to play with you because you're in the dirt
It's not because you're dirty
It's not because you're clean
It's because you've got the whooping cough and eat margarine"
The commenter didn't indicate where he lived or when he was "wee". However, his use of that word suggest that he is probably from Ireland.


"Ahem, Ahem, Me Mother Has Gone to Church"

Opie Brussels Griffon, Uploaded on Mar 7, 2011
Opie Brussels Griffon wishes you a Happy St. Patrick's Day with an old Irish children's rhyme.
In response to the question "Who sings this song?" a commenter wrote that this was sung by The
Clancy Brothers in the early 1970's

This Irish rhyme/song reflects the erroneous belief that only poor, dirty people got whooping cough. That song rhyme/song also reflects the once strong societal preference throughout the Western world for butter over margarine. Here are some comments about old attitudes in the United States about butter versus margarine:
From: "“It’s because she’s got the whooping cough and eats margarine"
lidarose, March 31, 2010
“I’m originally from Wisconsin. Back in the 1950′s and ’60s a person could not purchase “fake” dairy products, such as margarine, or ice milk, rather than ice cream within the state. You had to order out from Chicago for margarine. Some people did was the most foul substance you could imagine. I never understood why anyone would spread their bread with margarine.”

From "Butter vs. Margarine"
Renegade, 08 February 2013
"The margarine vs. butter debate has changed so mucn [sic] in the last 20 years. When I was a kid we ate margarine because we thought it was healthier (and I was amused when I read the book "Matilda," at how Matilda thought margarine was a sign of dire poverty. That may have been true in Roald Dahl's day, but it wasn't true by the 1990s!)"...
As a matter of information Roald Dahl's children's book "Matilda" was written in 1988.

Click to read a scholarly paper that explores old views about attitudes margarine as a substitute for butter.

Suffice it to say, due in large part to successful advertising*, in the United States since at least the late 1980s -if not earlier- the debate over whether to use butter or margarine is now mostly about which product cost more (butter) and which product is healthier for you (I'm not sure about the answer to that.) In spite of the fact that butter cost more than margarine, I don't think that Americans think that only poor people eat margarine, as is reflected in that old Irish children's rhyme which is the focus of this post.

*Here are two examples of how margarine ads greatly reduced the disparaging attitude people had about margarine itself and about those who ate margarine:
"Old Food or Product Commericals that You Miss?"
natewrites Oct 25, 2010 04:49 PM
"The other day, out of completely nowhere I remembered a few old margarine ads (BTW, you NEVER see margarine ads any more).

The two that I can think of was:

"If you think it's butter, but it's not, 'It's Chiffon."

Then the "Duh, duh, duh, da!!!!!" And it was an Imperial Margarine commerical. The idea was you'd take a bite of something with Imperial Margarine on it and a king's crown would mysteriously appear on your head!"...

"The [whooping cough] disease is named for the characteristic sound produced when affected individuals attempt to inhale; the whoop originates from the inflammation and swelling of the laryngeal structures that vibrate when there is a rapid inflow of air during inspiration. The first outbreaks of whooping cough were described in the 16th century. The bacterium responsible for the infection, Bordetella pertussis, was not identified until 1906. In the prevaccination era (during the 1920s and 30s), there were over 250,000 cases of whooping cough per year in the U.S., with up to 9,000 deaths. In the 1940s, the pertussis vaccine, combined with diphtheria and tetanus toxoids (DTP), was introduced. By 1976, the incidence of whooping cough in the U.S. had decreased by over 99%.

During the 1980s, however, the incidence of whooping cough began to increase and has risen steadily, with epidemics typically occurring every three to five years in the U.S...

In 2010, a pertussis epidemic was declared in California. The California Department of Public Health warned in June 2010 that the state was on pace to suffer the most illnesses and deaths due to whooping cough in the past 50 years. In the previous epidemic of 2005, California recorded 3,182 cases and eight deaths"....

As a result of immunizations, most people in the United States- rightly or wrongly- are no longer concerned with the possibility of a whooping cough epidemic. Also, in the United States negative attitudes about margarine have shifted to at least neutral attitudes about that product. Because of these developments, the "It's because you've got the whooping cough and eat margarine" line in children's songs is no longer understandable. Consequently, that line has been retired, and is scarcely remembered nowadays. However, the "It's not because you're dirty", not because you're clean" line that preceded it lives on in "Apple On A Stick" rhymes.

The pancocojams post about some examples of those rhymes will be published ASAP.


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