Sunday, December 11, 2011

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

Inspecda, Feb 3, 2011

Edited by Azizi Powell

Latest Revision - June 24, 2023 

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 highly 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.

Here's the words to that chant/song along with information about it from

The space goes...

down down baby, down down the roller coaster.

Sweet sweet baby, sweet sweet don't let me go.

shimmy shimmy coco pop, shimmy shimmy rock,

shimmy shimmy coco pop, shimmy shimmy rock

I met a girlfriend- a triscuit,

she said a triscuit-a biscuit,

ice cream soda pop

vanilla on the top

oooo Shalida, walking down the street,

ten times a week

I meant it. I said it.

I stole my mama's credit.

I'm cool. I'm hot.

Sock you in the stomach three more times.
The previous version of this pancocojams post included a transcription of this rhyme in which I included the word "spade" instead of "space".  

"Spade" is an offensive informal referent for Black people.

A number of comments in the comment section for this post vehemently disagree with that transcription and instead point to online sources that use the word "space". 

Read those comments and the comment section within this post for more about that introductory phrase "the space go" or  "the spades go" in the movie Big's version of "Shimmy Shimmy Co Co Pop".  . 

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 reformatted in poetry form:

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
Notice that the name in #13 is given as "Shelly" instead of "Shalida". I've come across either of those names or other similarly pronounced names in other online versions of the movie Big's version of "Shimmy Shimmy Co Co Pop". 

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.

Besides probably mistakenly hearing the words "the spades go"" in the movie Big's version of "Shimmy Shimmy Co Co Pa" and coming across some online examples of that rhyme that begin with "the spades go"), I came to the conclusion that that movie used the words "the spades go" because that referent is another way of saying "The Black [people] go" [perform the rhyme this way.]. That introduction is found in the earliest example of "Down Down Baby" that I've come across to date [June 24, 2023]. Here's that example 
from John Langstaff and Carol Langstaff's 1973 book ShimmyShimmy Coke-Ca-Pop!: A  Collection Of  City Children's Street Games And Rhymes (Garden City, New York, Doubleday & Co), page 78

[Lyrics given in a musical sheet]

"The Blacks go
Down down baby
Down by the roller coaster
Sweet, sweet baby
I don't want to let you go
Just because I kissed you once
Doesn't mean I love you so


Shimmy, shimmy, shimmy, shimmy
Shimmy Shimmy pop!
Shimmy, shimmy, shiimmy, shimmy
Shimmy, shimmy.coke-ca-pop!"

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 acceleration 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". In addition, Kyra D. Gaunt, author of the 2006 book The Games Black Girls Play", writes that the rhyme "Down Down Baby" is also called "Hot Dog"
That name refers to those words and that hip shaking movement that are found in some versions of that rhyme, particularly the version that was chanted by a group of young African American girls in a 1980s Sesame Street television clip. 

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. Replies
    1. June 24, 2023. I revised the content of this post to reflect the use of the phrase "the space go" instead of "the spades go".

      I also added the example of the earliest version of "Shimmy Shimmy Co Co Pop" ("Down Down Baby") that I've come across (from a children's rhyme book published in 1973) that begins with the introductory words "The Blacks go".

      I though that "the spades go" were the words that I heard in that movie because I probably misheard those words "the spades go" in the movie Big's version of that rhyme and because I read some versions of that rhyme with those words from some people's remembrance of that movie and otherwise.

      My apologies to all those reading these comments for what I now realize was (probably) my jumping to erroneous conclusions.

    2. It's "goes" not "go." Whether you're hearing space or spades (it's space), the second word is obviously "goes."

    3. Thanks for your comment Blerb.

      I appreciate it and I believe that you are correct. Here's a note that I added to my most recent pancocojams post about "Down Down Baby" ("Shimmy Shimmy Co Co Pop" rhymes.
      "There's considerable debate about whether the Tom Hanks character in the movie Big says "the space goes" or "the spades go". (There's also multiple "transcriptions" of this rhyme from that movie, especially regarding the line "Oooo Shalida,walkng down the street". Many of those examples give that line as "Oh, Shelly, walking down the street."
      My position is that the movie Big version of "Shimmy Shimmy Co Co Pa" ("Down Down Baby" is a folk processed form of one or more already existing version/s of that rhyme that the writers of that movie had come across.

      My thoughts about whether that character says "the space goes" ."the spades go" or "the Space Ghost" in that movie have changed over time (I was in the spades go " team for a long time,. This was largely because of what I thought I heard and also because of my awareness of other American children's recreational rhymes that begin with "the spades go", and particularly my awareness of the 1973 example of "Shimmy Shimmy Co Co Pa" that begins with "The Blacks go". However, recently I finally was won over to "the space goes" team because I re-listened to that movie clip over and over and over again and was finally convinced that that was what was being said. I never was in the Space Ghost" team."

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

  9. In an interview Tom Hanks said they just wanted something in the movie and they just got it from his son's camp randomly. It was easy it was catchy. And the interview he also did say space. He did say shalita. But something to think about is a business is not going to want to have controversy so if the real original version did say Spades then it only makes sense for them to change it. Also it's hard to find what the original version did say because chances are it was made up long ago when they didn't write things down or put it on record. I understand somebody did record it but that was obviously after it was made up they were not the first ones to create it. If you take the nursery rhyme Jimmy crack corn it's the same situation where nobody can truly know it's original meaning because it was so long ago. Some say that Jimmy was a black slave others say Jimmy was the white Master falling off his horse. People change the words after time so it doesn't sound so racial. I don't understand why all this hate for this post no matter how old it was just for a person saying that it's their interpretation or research. It doesn't matter what the original script on big was saying the words were, they did not make up the song. If this person hurt it wrong, they have already openly said I could be wrong. But they went into detail about what else they found and where the song came from. There's so many videos about people noticing something that's been around for so long and they're just realizing it's actual use. The Ritz cracker for example. The writer also said in the movie Bigs version. Did not say the original version. When Nelly came out with the song Country Grammar nobody's jumping on him because he changed the words. So what's wrong if the movie changed the words to avoid any racial backlash. What if the camp changed the words for the same reason and Tom Hanks only heard the camps version.

    1. Anonymous, thanks for sharing your thoughts about this example of "Shimmy Shimmy Co Co Pa" and its "the space go" introduction. I appreciate your comments.

      I didn't know that Tom Hanks had said in an interview that that rhyme came from his son's camp. I agree with you that if the movie writers even knew that the earlier words were "the spades" instead of "the space" , they would have changed those earlier words to avoid that racial meaning.

      I appreciate your understanding of my motivations for writing and publishing this post.

      Best wishes.

    2. Anonymous, I took the liberty of quoting your comment and my reply in this closely related pancocojams post: The REAL Meanings Of "The Spades Go" & "The Space Go" In Playground Rhymes

      Thanks again!

  10. I don't understand how people are getting upset saying you don't want to admit that you were wrong but how do they even know that you were wrong in the first place.

    1. Anonymous, thanks for this comment and thanks for going into more detail in your subsequent comment.

  11. Cool blog! I would have to go with “spades” being the original version that Hanks’s kid heard at camp, maybe sanitized by scriptwriters. There is a wealth of examples of such racialized terminology in kids rhymes. I’m wondering too if such kids songs may be a reference point for the first line of the chorus to Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side” since the song is supposed to capture sounds of NYC streets.

    1. Hello, Anonymous.

      I admit that I didn't know about Lou Reed's 1972 Rock song "Walk On The Wild Side" before reading your comment, but I have heard that saying before. If you are referring to the line from that song that goes "And the colored girls say Doo do doo do doo do do doo." I agree with. you that the first part of that line is very similar to population referenced in "the spades go" line.

      Thanks for your comment!