Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Examples Of "Eeny Meeny Miney Mo" In The United States, Part II

Edited by Azizi Powell

This is Part II of a two part pancocojams series on United States examples of the counting out/choosing it rhyme "Eeny Meenie Miney Mo" (1940s-to date).

Part II features selected comments from several websites. Additional examples are welcome.

Click for Part I of this series.

Part I features selected comments from a Language Forums discussion thread: "eeny meeny miney mo - how acceptable?" The original poster asked if it was acceptable to use the words "eeny meeny miney mo" without the n word.

With the exception of my comments, I found these quotes through internet searching. Examples in this collection are included only if the blogger indicates his or her location in the United States. In some of these examples, the decade in which this rhyme was chanted by that blogger, and that blogger's age are also given.

DISCLAIMER: This post isn't meant to be a comprehensive listing of online examples of this rhyme.

The content of this post is presented for folkloric and cultural purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post.

Examples from the same website are given in chronological order. Selected websites are featured in no particular order.

These comments are numbered for referencing purposes only. The numbering sequence from Part I continues in Part II.

Most of the blogs and other websites featured in this post include examples of "Eenie Meeny Miney Mo" from other English speaking nations, particularly from the United Kingdom and Australia. And those examples often comprise the majority of the versions that are given.

I choose to use the euphemism "the n word" in this post. The n word is written in italics when that pejorative word is fully or partially spelled out in a quote.

Comment #15:
From Eenie Meenie Minie Mo (Counting Rhyme)
"DESCRIPTION: "Eenie meenie minie mo, Catch a (the n word/tiger) by the toe, If he hollers, let him go, Eenie meenie minie mo."
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1903 (Newell); Simpson and Roud report an 1885 collection in Canada, and Opie-Oxford2 claims that Bolton had a version in 1888"...

More interesting is the fact that we (middle-class kids in Minnesota in about 1970) gave the second line as "Catch a tiger by the toe," compared to the seemingly-older version involving catching a "the n word." Did we modify it to "tiger" because none of us knew the meaning of the racial slur, or did our parents firmly straighten us (or our older classmates, who taught us the rhyme) out? I've no clue."

Comments From,_meeny,_miny,_moe
Note: This is the "talk" page for possible edits of this rhyme's Wikipedia page,_meeny,_miny,_moe
Comment #16
"USA, central Oklahoma, born in the mid-1970s... The only version I heard as a child was "catch a tiger" and "make him pay 50 dollars every day". (Or "catch a ___" where the blank is filled in with the listener's name. Playfully grab big toe at that moment.) I never knew there was any other way to say it until recently. Certainly I had never heard it said with the N-word or any other racist intent. Bouncey (talk) 22:36, 2 January 2008 (UTC)"

Comment #17:
"I was born in 1966 (New York City) and when I was a little boy (1970's) we sang: Eenie Meeny Miny Moe catch a tiger by the toe, if he hollers let him go, my mother says to pick this one and out goes Y-O-U (and we sometimes followed that up with - "and you are not it") I personally never heard the "N" word version until the Pulp Fiction movie. (talk)AR"

Comment #18:
"Eeny meeny miney mo
Catch a tiger by the toe
If he hollers make him pay
50 dollars every day
My mother said to pick the very best one
And you are not it
With a dirty dirty dishrag on your toe.
eny meeny miney mo

Source: USA (south St. Louis, Missouri), circa early 1980's
Note that the editor of the Dictionary of Playground Slang website posted this note;
"(ed: there's a Warning here of some racist content. Shoul I leave it.. or censor. Leave it I think, this is essentially a historical store.. and this is just how it was in 'the bad old days'.)"
That statement implies that examples of "Eeny Meeny Miney Mo" no longer contain any racist content - and that there was some line of demarcation when the "bad old days" ended and the more racially enlightened days began. These comments suggest that there is no such line and it's likely that some "n word" examples of this rhyme are still being said.

Another example that was included on that page [which doesn't have a location given] included the contributor's note that "In later years the n word was replaced by mousey, but in earlier years we didn't know any better.". -end of quote-

I believe that saying that "we didn't know any better" and "that was the bad old days" are excuses that mimimize the use of such language. Judging from the comments in this collection, some people knew better, including some children who may have continued using that racial slur regardless of whether they were told that that word was offensive, or maybe because of that reason- as a way of being risque, and relatively safely testing society's limits.

Comment #19:
From "Does "Eenie Meenie Miney Moe" have racist origins?"
03-06-2003, 10:38 AM
"Bizarre twist- in the New York neighborhood where I grew up, kids always said "Catch a NICKEL (???) by the toe."

Now, obviously, "nickel" makes no sense, but none of us thought much about it- after all, MOST childish rhymes didn't make much sense to us.

It was only years later that I figured out "nickel" was simply a sanitized version of the older, more offensive rhyme."

Comment #20:
09-05-2013, 08:39 PM
"I can recall hearing this as a child growing up in Houston, Texas in the mid to late 60's, and what I first remembered hearing was "catch a the n word* ger by the toe, if he hollers let him go'.
My SO says that she recalls hearing the exact same wording as a child in the late 40's, while growing up in Washington state (Pacific Northwest)."
* the n word was spelled with asterisks
SO= Significant Other

Comments from
Note: Besides me, all the Mudcat commenters in this discussion thread are White.
Comment #21:
"Subject: RE: eena meena mackeracka
From: GUEST,Nerd
Date: 01 May 02 - 03:23 PM

...I grew up in upper Manhattan, where using the n-word would get you seriously [profanity deleted] up if not killed, but everyone knew the tiger rhyme, and none of us kids knew it had anything racist in it. When an older black man told us the original, we didn't believe it. Until he showed it to us in a book. Personally, I think "Tiger" is an improvement precisely because it isn't racist anymore (and because if you catch a tiger by the toe you will get what you deserve!)"

Comment #22:
Subject: RE: eena meena mackeracka (children's rhymes)
From: Bonnie Shaljean
Date: 01 Jul 06 - 05:25 PM

..."I first picked up eeny-meeny from the bigger kids in my street when I was four. They used the N word, and I didn't know what it meant. When my mother heard me reciting it she told me that wasn't a nice word to use and that I should sing "tiger" instead. I subsequently heard the chant used both ways, so there were two versions floating around.
Demographical information given as (central California, 50's)

Comment #23:
"Subject: RE: eena meena mackeracka (children's rhymes)
From: Sorcha
Date: 20 Aug 06 - 03:05 PM

I grew up in south central Kansas. The N word was used, except in our house...we used monkey."

Comment #24:
Subject: RE: eena meena mackeracka (children's rhymes)
From: Azizi
Date: 09 Jan 08 - 05:58 PM

...As a matter of record, in my African American neighborhood [in Atlantic City, New Jersey in the 1950s], the eenie meenie rhyme was always recited as "catch a tiger by the toe". I didn't know that it was ever anything different than that. And "catch a tiger by the toe" is the way that I've heard that counting out or choosing It rhyme recited by African American girls & boys in my adopted hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania since I moved here in the late 1960s....

I'm glad that this version of the eenie meenie rhyme-with its use of a derogatory referent-has largely been retired."
As my comment above indicates, given my online reading, I'm not sure now if it's true that racist terms have actually been retired from the "Eenie Meenie (Meeny) Minie Mo" rhymes in the United States and elsewhere.

Example #25:
" "This is the version of 'Eenie, Meenie, Miney, Moe' that I sang as a child growing up on L.I.[Long Island] in New York." -Lisa

Eenie, meenie, miney, moe,
Catch a tiger by the toe.
If he hollers, let him go.
My mother said to pick
The very best one
And you are not it."

Comments from "Eenie Meeny Miney Mo: Racist Nursery Rhymes You Didn't Know You Were Learning"
Comment #26:
UR2UB, December 1014
"The version most people have heard, outside the small world of Texas and the south, is "...catch a piggy by the toe". The racist versions are likely distortions of what may have already existed, because that's what racism does: distort truth and reality. (sigh and eyeroll)"

Comment #27:
Erika > FromUR2UB, December 2014
"And I know it as catch a tiger by the toe. And I'm black and from the south. Never heard the racist version."
"the south" = the Southern region of the United States

Here's a comment that I wrote which was posted on another blog and which I added to this pancocojams post:
..."For what it’s worth, I learned “Eeny Meenie Miney Mo” with the “catch a tiger by the toe” line when I was growing up in the mid 1950s in Atlantic City, New Jersey. And it wasn’t until I was in my fifties that I learned that “tiger” (or some other word) was a replacement for the “the n word”. From reading other online discussions about this song, including your comment, it seems that a number of people who know that “Eenie Meenie Miney Mo” choosing it rhyme don’t know that it once included the “n word”.

I’m not encouraging people to forget the history of rhymes or songs that contained offensive referents. I believe that it would be beneficial for children of certain ages -at least pre-teens- and adults to formally and informally study & discuss this subject as an introduction to and auxiliary resource for the study of anti-racism, multiculturalism, and folklore etc.

What I’m much more concerned about is the fact that some playground rhymes are still being recited today that are racist- for example, some examples of “I Went To A Chinese Restaurant”. I strongly believe that those rhymes shouldn’t be recited, and I would have no problem whatsoever contacting the school or community center if I learned that a teacher or staff person was teaching my young granddaughter those offensive versions of those rhymes. Her parents and I would redirect my grandchild in an age appropriate way if she learned an offensive version of that rhyme or if she learned any other offensive rhyme or song from her friends, from television, or the internet or elsewhere.
However, I would have no problem – and I believe that her parents would also have no problem – if she recited a non-racist version of a rhyme or a song that had a racist version in its past or its present.

I agree with the principal who had concerns about “sensitizing a child to something that we cannot quite explain in full as there is no context for the child – we can’t tell them what the old words used to be.”

Just saying that “Some examples of that rhyme have hurtful words” is too vague unless we also say what those words are. And I don’t think that adults need to do that unless the children are older or are the children are heard using those words or hear someone else use those words and ask us about them."

Click for a post in which a Black American blogger shares her poignant remembrances of how she first heard the n word while playing with some White children. She was taught "Eeny Meeny Miney Mo" with the word "tiger", and wasn't told that some people used the n word.

Here's an excerpt from that post:
"“The first time [a Black child hears the n word] is never predictable, but always memorable. There is no way a child can be prepared for their first time, which breaks my heart as a new parent. I can’t protect my daughter from her first time, but I can hold her when she cries.”

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