Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sources Of The Movie Big's Rap Shimmy Shimmy Cocoa Pop

Edited by Azizi Powell

Tom Hanks Big rap Shimmy Shimmy Cocoa Pop

Inspecda, Feb 3, 2011

This is Part I of a three part of a pancocojams series on playground rhymes sources for the "Shimmy Shimmy Cocoa Pop" "rap" in the 1988 American movie Big.

This post provides my general comments about children's playground rhymes, and provides 2 examples of that "rap" that were featured in the movie Big. Part 1 of this post also provides the words to an example of this "rap" that was recited by actor Tom Hanks in 2009 on a UK television talk show.

In addition, Part 1 of this post briefly provides a framework for understanding folklorists' views about how multiple versions of the same playground rhyme may be created.

Parts 2 & 3 include examples of older playground rhymes that are probable sources for movie Big's rap "Shimmy Shimmy Cocoa Pop". Those posts demonstrate that many lines found in that rap are also found as "floaters" in playground rhymes that aren't members of the large family of "Shimmy Shimmy Cocoa Pop" rhymes.

Click for Part 2 of this series.

Click for Part 3 of this series.

Big is a well regarded 1988 American movie starring Tom Hanks. That movie is about a boy who wishes on a magic machine that he were big and wakes up the next morning and finds he is a man.

Two very similar versions of the children’s rhyme “Shimmy Shimmy Cocoa Pop" are featured in the movie Big. The video of one scene from that movie that includes a version of that "rap" is found at the beginning of this post.
Here are the words to the two versions of the movie Big's rap from

*I made no changes in the words, but for the benefit of this post I formatted this rap into a standard poetry pattern & numbered those lines for the purpose of textual analysis.

[Given here as Example #1] Scene 4 Billy & Josh

1. Shimmy, shimmy cocoa pop!
2. Shimmy, shimmy rock!
3. Shimmy, shimmy cocoa pop!
4. Shimmy, shimmy rock!
5. I met a girlfriend a triscuit!
6. She said, a triscuit a biscuit!
7. Ice cream, soda pop,
8. vanilla on the top!
9. Ooh, Shelly's out, walking down the street,
10. ten times a week!
11. I read it! I said it!
12. I stole my momma's credit!
13. I'm cool! I'm hot!
14. Sock me in the stomach three more times!

[Given here as Example #2]* Scene 12 Josh
1....Ooh! The spades go, Down! Down! Baby!
2. Down! Down the roller coaster!
3. Sweet, sweet baby!
4. Sweet, sweet delectable!
5. Shimmy, shimmy cocoa pop!
6. Shimmy, shimmy rock!
7. Shimmy, shimmy cocoa pop!
8. Shimmy, shimmy rock!
9. I met a girlfriend a triscuit!
10. She said a triscuit a biscuit!
11. Ice cream, soda pop,
12. vanilla on the top!
13. Ooh Shelly, walking down the street,
14. ten times a week!
15. I met it! I said it!
16. I stole my mother's credit!
17. I'm cool! I'm hot!
18. Sock me in the stomach three more times!

Here's a video of Tom Hanks' recitation of the Shimmy Shimmy Co Co Pa rap in 2009:
Tom Hanks does the 'Big' rap - Friday Night with Jonathan Ross -BBC One

Uploaded by BBC on May 8, 2009

Jonathan's guests are one of Hollywood's most enduring superstars, double Oscar-winner Tom Hanks...

A number of persons who posted comments on that video's viewer comment thread shared their transcription of Tom Hanks' recitation of that Shimmy Shimmy Co Co Pa "rap".

Here's one of those transcriptions which I reformated in poetry form:Here's one such "transcription" of the words chanted in that movie [Given here as Example #3]*:

1. The space goes down, down baby,
2. down, down the roller coaster.
3. Sweet, sweet baby,
4. sweet, sweet, don't let me go.
5. Shimmy, shimmy, cocoa pop.
6. Shimmy, shimmy, rock.
7. Shimmy, shimmy, cocoa pop.
8. Shimmy, shimmy, rock.
9. I met a girlfriend - a triscuit.
10. She said, a triscuit - a biscuit.
11. Ice cream, soda pop,
12. vanilla on the top.
13. Ooh, Shelly's out, walking down the street,
14. ten times a week.
15. I read it. I said it.
16. I stole my momma's credit.
17. I'm cool. I'm hot.
18. Sock me in the stomach three more times!
-xxMarz456xx ;, 2009

The most significant difference between those examples of this rap which are given in this post as Example #2 and Example #3 is the replacement of the word "space" in the phrase "the space goes" for the word "spades" in the phrase "the spades go". This change may have been accidental or it could reflect Tom Hank's recognition that the word "spades" was and still is an offensive referent for Black people.

It's usually adults that change a taboo or "politically" offensive word or phrase in a playground rhyme to a more acceptable word or phrase. Those changes can quickly become the norm and as such can be transmitted to generations of children learning that rhyme. The very widely known playground rhyme "Eenie Meenie Minie Mo" is an excellent example of a rhyme in which adults purposely replaced a racially offensive word to an inoffensive word. Nowadays, most children aren't aware that the word "tiger" (or some other societally correct word) in the line "catch a tiger by his toe" is a replacement for what is now known as "the n word".

I believe that such a purposeful change in the wording of a rhyme occurred when, upon request, Tom Hanks recited the movie Big's rap "Shimmy Shimmy Coco Pop" during his interview in 2009 on that BBC television show.
In 2006 I wrote a rather lengthy reply to a question that was posed to me on a Folk & Blues forum about my rather tepid reaction as an African American to the inclusion of the phrase "the spades go" that was found in am example of the playground rhyme "Two Lips". That example is reposted below as Example #4 in Playground rhymes that include the phrase "the spades go".

To summarize my comment, I indicated that while I have a strongly felt visceral reaction to the pejorative word that is now known as "the n word" -regardless of who uses it- I don't have that same "hit in the gut" reaction to the phrase "the spades go". I think that there are three main reasons for that:

1. Even though I believe that the phrase "the spades" is a referent for "Black people", it's not a referent that is used that often in the United States (at least, in my experiences).

2. Because it's children who are reciting rhymes that include the phrase "the spades go", I give them the benefit of the doubt that they don't know the pejorative meaning of "the spades". That pejorative meaning is sometimes alluded to in the colloquial expression "call a spade a spade". The racial meaning of that expression came about because in a deck of playing cards, the spade category of cards is the color black.

3. In the context of children's playground rhymes, the phrase "the spades" has no literal meaning nowadays, but merely serves as an introduction to the rhyme itself.

To read my full comment in that discussion about the phrase "the spades", on that folk music forum, visit

Additional information about "the spades goes" and other lines from this rap are provided in Part 2 of this post.
Before moving to a presentation of probable early sources for the movie Big's Shimmy Shimmy Coco Pop Rap, I want to emphasize the following points:

1. All playground rhymes have multiple versions (variants). Changes in the words and to a much lesser extent, changes in the tunes and performances of playground rhymes are both natural and expected. The words to a rhyme usually change over a period of time among different populations or within the same population. The words to a playground rhyme may also change slightly or significantly within the same period of time among the same population, or among different populations, even within the same city or the same or closely adjourning neighborhoods. (My sense is that the internet is greatly impacting the recognition if not the actual accelleration of this process. Internet websites and blogs contain far more versions of playground rhymes, particularly English language playground rhymes (meaning examples of the rhymes that English speaking children & teens actually chant and perform), than off-line published books, magazines, journals, or audio/visual recordings.)

2. Versions of a particular playground rhyme can be compared with each other to determine the older (or oldest) print or recorded form of that rhyme or how closely a particular example conforms to an older version. However, there are no right or wrong versions of any particular playground rhyme.

3. Most playground rhymes are composed by stringing together "floating" verses from two or more other rhymes These two line rhyming verses often are about unrelated subjects. The reason why those lines are called "floating verses" is because they often can be found in certain other playground rhymes.

The sources of these rhyming verses are other playground rhymes; nursery (Mother Goose) rhymes; unrecorded or recorded songs including folk songs, R&B songs, and other music genres; popular sayings, words from television shows & books; and portions of advertisements etc.
Each of the versions of "Shimmy Shimmy Coco Pop" given above include verses that are found in several older playground rhymes. And those floating verses for those older rhymes appear to have originated in the creative wellspring of African American culture.

By publishing this post, I'm not disputing the contributions of the writers & producers of this award winning movie. This post simply indicates that the sources for the versions of the "rap" featured in that movie originated among African Americans. In that regard, that creativity should also be recognized & appreciated.

Also, by publishing this post, I'm not attempting to name all of the past & present versions of playground rhymes which contain lines from the movie Big's "rap". To do so would probable be an impossible task, in part because old versions of Black children's rhymes were seldom collected, and in part because new versions of these rhymes are constantly being created by Black children and by non-Black children.

In the United States, it appears that there may be regional differences and perhaps also racial differences in the titles these rhymes are known by. For instance, "Down Down Baby" is how these rhymes and other closely related rhymes (like "Down Down Baby, I know Karate") are known among African Americans in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area where I live. However, in Atlantic City, New Jersey where I was born & spent my childhood in the 1950s, that handclap rhyme was always referred to (at least by African Americans I knew) as "Shimmy Shimmy Cocoa Pop (or a similarly worded line). I also knew the closely related rhyme "I Love (Like) Coffee. I Love (Like) Tea".

Nowadays all of these rhymes are usually performed as handclap routines/games. However, some people recall versions of these rhymes being chanted while jumping (skipping) rope.

The Real Meaning Of "The Spades Go" & "The Space Go" In Playground Rhymes

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  1. I realize this is an old post and you may not get this, but I am almost positive that the opening words are "The Space Ghost"- a reference to the theme song of the old Hanna Barbera cartoon. Since this "rap" isa mashup of various songs and rhymes, it is quite possible that a kid's theme song be included. Especially since the song came from Tom Hank's son- who heard it at summer camp.

    Jim Zarbaugh
    Plano, Texas

    1. Thanks for your comment, zarbaugh4.

      I admit that it's possible that the first words to this rhyme in the movie Big could be "The Space Ghost" instead of "the spades go" or "the space goes". But, if so, that doesn't explain the use of "the spades go" or "the space goes" at the beginning of other children's rhymes.

      Click for a pancocojams post about those phrases.

  2. It's always been "space," not "spades," wtf. It's sock YOU in the stomach, and I'm pretty sure "I MEANT it, I said it," all times, never "read" why would it change, why.

    Also it's a name, either "Shalida" or "Shanida" or something, not "Shelly's out" which it sounds nothing like.

    What are you even hearing, Jesus. You're going into deep analysis of "spades" when it was never said once in the movie or in the interview. XD

    1. Josie Q, thanks for sharing your opinion.

      I stand by what I've already written on this subject.

    2. Good good, it's good to pig-headedly refuse to acknowledge you're wrong simply because you've built a whole stupid theory around something than to admit you're a human who may've made an error.

      Oh but here, found this!

      Original scanned script, not just something transcribed by a random person like your link to script-o-rama (seriously, you and that person are the ONLY people in the world who think it says "spades" and not "space"). Page 28.

      You lose. ^-^

    3. Okay.....just gotta mention this.

      It is *exceedingly* unlikely that it would be "spades".

      Infinitely more likely to be "space", for a very simple (but somewhat obscure) reason:

      The time-frame makes sense, given that Josh and Billy are explicitly portrayed as young teens who would have *grown up* watching "the great space coaster".

      Assuming that Josh is 14 at the time of the film, he would have been:

      1. Born in 1974
      2. Between 7 and 12 years of age during the original run of the show.

      Now, notice something else:

      Josh *explicitly* uses the "rap" as a way to prove his identity to Billy. (That indicates that it isn't just some weird "schoolyard rhyme" used by other children, but is explicitly something at least comparatively unique to the two of them.

      Context matters.

      Just sayin'.

    4. Hello, kb3ojg.

      Thanks for your comment. Your theory about The Great Space Coaster being the reason why he said "space" instead of "spades" in that rhyme is interesting and may be true.

      That said, I don't think that "rap" needed to be something Josh made up by himself. It could have been relatively unknown around the neighborhood Josh and Billy lived in, but known to other people at the same time.

      Thanks again for your comment.


    Page 28 in the PDF of the draft of the actual script.

    The space goes... (although I also thought he was singing the intro to The Space Ghost).

    Upon dozens of repeated watching, his lips definitely never say "spades."

    1. seeing as both the d and s sound are at the same place of articulation i dont think you could tell from just watching his lips, they would look identical.

    2. Irrelevant. We have the original script, and the fact that this woman is still going on about it being SPADES just to avoid having admitted she wasted weeks or months or years of her time reading into something based on nothing, because on an erroneous transcription by a nobody, is absolute madness.

      (Also your teeth meet for a "d" sound more than an "s", but I wouldn't make that point, I would make the one that he's obviously saying GOES and not GO, and "The spades goes" makes no sense.)

  4. Notice: I deleted two additional comments in this thread from two different commenters.

    I recognize that there are disagreements about this subject. But I retain the right to delete comments if I consider that the comments include discourteous language.

  5. I don't know how you are hearing "Shelly's out" . Josie Q Has given you the correction, but you stand by what you have already said. You can delete as many posts as you want, but it will never make you right. I do not know what "The space goes" means but you are probably right about it once being "The spades go". But you are definitely wrong about "Shelly's out", "Met/Read it", "Sock me".

  6. I appreciated the link someone shared from the script, since the script is closer to the version I learned than to the transcription given here. I learned “the space goes” and “oo, shalida.” (On the other hand, I also always thought it went “I meant it, I said it.”) I think the version I learned was probably taken straight from the film.

  7. There's a from way back in the day from little anthony & the imperials that's actually shimmy shimmy ko ko bop.