Sunday, July 13, 2014

Children's Rhyme "Hey...How About A Date Meet Me At The Corner About Half Past Eight

Edited by Azizi Powell

This is Part I of a two part series on the children's recreational rhyme "Hey ....How About A Date". That "title" is the first line of that rhyme. A celebrity's name is usually inserted after the word "Hey" (or "Hi"). The second line for that rhyme is "meet me at the corner at half past eight".

Part I features seven examples of that rhyme.

Click for Part II of this series. In that post I suggest that the 1847 Irving Berlin song "Kate (Have I Come Too Early, Too Late)" is the song source for that children's rhyme.

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

Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post.

In 1996 I conducted an informal written survey of playground rhymes among my fellow staff members of a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania non-profit organization. That survey listed some playground rhymes by title (usually their first line), and asked respondents to provide some demographical information (decade they learned those rhymes, city location, gender, and race/ethnicity. That survey also had space for respondents to write down one or more examples of rhymes that they remembered, if they chose to do so.

One of those respondents, Barbara Ray, not only filled out that survey, but took time during our work break to demonstrate for me two "extra" rhymes - neither of which I had heard of before that time. One of those rhymes was what she called "Hey Baby" (How About A Date). I previously published this example on [August 26, 2009] and

However, I didn't find any similar example of that rhyme until I happened upon two rhymes on a Mudcat discussion thread. The two rhymes that opened up the flood gates (as it were) for other versions of "Hey Baby" (How About A Date) and even helped me to identify a possible source for that rhyme family were found on the Mudcat discussion thread about the children's rhyme "I'm A Nut" "Origin: I'm a Nut" . Those two examples are found below.

The first two examples are presented in relative chronological order compared with the other examples. The other examples are presented in the order that I found them online. The numbers are assigned for referencing purposes.

Example #1:
Hey baby, how about a date?
I'll meet you round the corner
'Bout half-past eight.
Hands up!
Tachie Tachie Tachie
Hands down!
Tachie Tachie Tachie!
Tachie Tachie Tachie
Hands down!
Tachie Tachie Tachie!
- Barbara Ray (African American female), memory of her childhood in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the 1950s; collected in November 1996 by Azizi Powell & in August 2009 (second interview) by Azizi Powell
In 1996 Barbara shared this rhyme and the rhyme "Ladies And Gentlemen". Both were movement rhymes and not jump rope rhymes. By "movement rhymes" I mean that these rhymes were chanted while doing dance type motions. The motions were indicated by the words of the rhymes and also included side to side or front to back steps, slides, or small jumps. Barbara demonstrated that on the words "Sans BOOTS", the girls chanting did a pronounced shake of their hips to the side.

I've shared my thoughts about what Sans BOOTs mean in the comment section below.

I've put this example first because it might predate the 1957 example from this rhyme family that was collected by the Opies and included in their now classic book of children's rhymes.

Example #2:
Hi, Roy Rogers how about a date
Meet me at the corner at half past eight
I can do the rumba
I can do the splits
I can do the turn arounds
I can do the kicks.
-girl 11 years, Swansea, 1957 for skipping.
from The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren, first published in 1959 [UK] editors: Iona Archibald Opie, Peter Opie, p. 116
“skipping” here probably means what people in the USA call “jumping rope”. The rumba and the splits are self explanatory. "Turns arounds" are probably just what the word indicates. Doing high kicks were probably somewhat risque in the 1950s, since girls almost always wore dresses or blouses and skirts.

Given the use of an American celebrity's name ["the singing cowboy" Roy Rogers] I think that it's probable that this rhyme-or at least this example of that rhyme- originated in the United States and somehow found its way to Great Britain. However, I wonder if Roy Rogers' television show was shown in Britain before the date mentioned in this quote "Kids who grew up in Britain in the 1970s will remember Roy Rogers movies as a regular staple of after-school TV, and Roy Rogers annuals as familiar Christmas presents." If not, I suppose it would have been relatively easy for people from one English speaking nation to share rhymes any number of ways with people from another English speaking nation...
Update: Read the comments below by slam2011 about the risqué nature of that entire jump rope performance and also her comment that the Roy Rogers television show was aired in the 1950s in Britain.

Example #3:
Romeo and Juliet,
On the balcony they met.
"Gotta get dressed, I've got a date.
Shakesperare's coming at half past eight."

My daughter learned this verse in school in the late 80s...
-Cool Beans, "Origin: I'm a Nut", Date: 27 Jul 10 - 02:29 PM

Example #4:
This summer at Crossroads Outdoor Ministries I learnt this version

Called myself up on the phone
Just to hear my golden tone
Asked myself out on a date
Better be ready by half past eight...
Tinker, "Origin: I'm a Nut", Date: 19 Sep 00 - 12:18 PM
This is given as the second first to the rhyme "I'm A Nut". There are three additional verses to that example of that rhyme.

Example #5:
Hi, Roy Rogers how about a date
Meet me at the corner at half past eight
Meet me on the corner at half past eight,
I can do the shing-a-ling,
I can do the twist
I can do The hootchie-cootchie
And it goes like this
- Source: Google Books: Weep Not, My Wanton: Stories & Poems
By Maggie Dubris ; David R. Godine Publisher, 2002
The "shing a ling" (which was also known as the "Boogaloo") and the "twist" are American R&B dances from the 1960s. The "hootchie-cootchie" dance first originated in the 1876, but the term "hootchie cootchie" ,if not the dance itself, is a part of Americana.

Example #6:
Hi Marshall Dillon (* Television character, circa 1950 *)
How about a date?
Meet me in the corner
At half past eight.

Bring along your horse.
Bring along your mule.
Don't bring your teacher
Cause I hate school.

Source: Hastings (1990)
Notice the 1950 date for this example.

Example #7
Hi-O Silver, I've got a date.
Meet me at the corner At half-past eight.
I can do the rumba, I can do the splits,
I can wear skirts Above ....[excerpt ends there]
The last line that is given in this excerpt appears to be the same as a line in the rhyme that I call "We Wear Our Hair In Curls". As such, the words after "above" are probably "my knees” and the next line probably is something like "I can ?? “whenever I please”
- Google Books, Legendary Figures in American Lore, Tristram Potter Coffin, Hennig Cohen.
Anchor Press, 1978 [excerpt] p .484, jump rope rhyme.
"Hi-O Silver" is the iconic saying of the fictitious American cowboy "The Lone Ranger" - "Silver" being the name of The Lone Ranger's horse. That Texas Ranger would say "Hi-O Silver" when he was ready to gallop away on his horse.

According to the ... popular [Lone Ranger] television show ... ran from 1949 to 1957." end of quote
That 1950s is the same decade of the two earliest examples of this rhyme family that I have found [given as example #1 & example #2 above]

Given those examples, my tentative conclusion (unless earlier examples are identified) is that "Hey ....How About A Date" rhymes originated in the 1950s in the United States as a girls recreation rhyme. Like most girls playground rhymes of the 1940s and 1950s, "Hey ....How About A Date" usually appears to have been performed as a jump rope (skipping) rhyme. After the 1960s, the usual performance activity for girls playground rhymes changed to partner hand claps (hand games). However, I've not (yet) found any examples of "Hey... How About A Date" that indicate that that rhyme was chanted as a hand clap game.

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  1. My idea about the meaning of the phrase "san BOOTS' in the "Hey Baby" rhyme that is given as Example #1 in the post above has changed since I wrote about it in that 2009 Mudcat "We Wear Our Hair In Curls" discussion thread.

    I now think that the word "BOOTS" is a folk etymology form of the word "boom" from the song "Ta Ra Ra Boom De Aye" . And I now believe that "sans" is just a folk etymology form of the word "and".

    In the pancocojams post on the rhyme "Ladies And Gentlemen, Children Too" I included a video of the Pointer Sisters. That Jazz group introduced their performance of "Wang Dang Doodle" with the "Ladies And Gentlemen" children's rhyme . As part of that rhyme those singers chanted "Sans Boom".

    The tune for "Hey Baby" (as sung by my informant Barbara Ray, and the tune for "Ladies And Gentlemen" (which she also performed for me in 1996, and which the Pointer Sisters chanted) are the same as the 1892 "Ta Ra Ra Boom De Aye" vaudeville song: Also, the tune for the "She Wears Her Hair In Curl" rhyme is the same as the "Ta Ra Ra Boom De Aye" song.

    An example of the "We Wear Our Hair In Curls" rhyme that I've come across includes the phrase "alla bostia". For those interested in reading it, that example can be found in that Mudcat "We Wear Our Hair In Curls discussion thread, posted by Azizi Date: 28 Aug 09 - 09:26 PM but quoting Guest Tianna in another Mudcat thread: "Folklore: Do kids still do clapping rhymes?", Date: 30 Dec 05 - 11:42 AM.

    That sexualized version of "We Wear Our Hair In Curls" * begins with the introductory line "Shame Shame Shame" . The phrase "alla bostia" is the second line.

    I now believe that "alla bostia" is a folk etymology form of "ta ra ra boom de aye".
    Furthermore, other examples of "We Wear Our Hair In Curls" include the "ta ra ra boom de aye" line or some folk adapted version such as "sha la la bum-shi-ka".

    *WARNING: Some examples of "We Wear Our Hair In Curls" children's rhyme are quite sexually explicit.

    1. Correction- The Pointer Sisters sang "Sam BOOM".

  2. Azizi, I can tell you from memory there was a b+w TV show of 'Roy Rogers' shown in Britain in the 1950s. Also from memory, the star was considered a bit passée compared with the actors playing other screen cowboys, who were younger and more dashing.
    That entire British skipping rhyme you quoted sounds saucy in a pre-pubertal way. Presumably the girl jumped into the rope at 'Hi' and performed actions to the words, such as a hip-shake at the word 'rumba', a wide scissor-kick on 'splits', a jump to reverse herself and face the other way on 'turn around' and a kick which would throw up her skirt at 'kicks'. I can't believe I ever had the physical skills to do this kind of thing.
    The vaguely American opening to the rhyme may have roots in the presence of GIs in Britain in WWII.

    1. Thanks very much slam 2011.

      It's good to hear from a Briton who remembers both those points- the television show and how that skipping rhyme was performed.

      Given your comment, I'm now not sure whether this rhyme originated in Britain or in the USA. But maybe it was both if it was created by a child or adult associated with GIs stationed in Britain.

      And as to how a rhyme from the USA could have shown up in Britain -
      I forgot about the presence of the families of soldiers stationed "overseas" is one way that rhymes, chants, and songs were transmitted (and still are transmitted). But I think the WWII date is too early, if indeed this rhyme really didn't appear until the 1950s.

  3. About 'sans Boots': I don't know which European country or language it comes from but, just as the sound of a trumpet is imitated by a word like 'tantantara', the sound of a drum was conventionally rendered as 'tsing-boum!' I've only read the words, but it's possible they were pronounced something like "zang boom"?

    1. That's a good possibility, slam2011. I definitely think that "sam BOOM" and "san boot" were chanted to emphasize or imitate their bass sound.