Sunday, October 23, 2016

In Search Of The Sources For "Stella Ella Ola"/"Quack Dilly Oso" Rhymes

Edited by Azizi Powell

(Update: October 10/23/2016 2:25 PM).

This is Part II of a two part pancocojams series that traces the lightly competitive hand clapping game "Stella Ella Ola" (also known as "Quack Dilly Oso" and other titles) to folk processed forms of the chorus of the 1945 American novelty song "Chickery Chick".

Part II provides information, lyrics, and a video example of the 1945 hit novelty song "Chickery Chick". Part II also provides information, text examples, and one video each of "Stella Ella Ola" and "Quack Dilly Oso". Oso").

Click for Part I of this series. Part I provides source information, text examples, and video examples of "In China There Lived A Great Man" (and other titles).

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

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all who are quoted in this post and thanks to the publishers of the videos that are included in this post.

I became aware of what I now call the "Stella Ella Ola"/"Quack Dilly Oso" family of children's hand clap rhymes in the 1990s and 2000s as a result of observing the recreational play of African American girls (sometimes joined by boys) around 7 - 12 years old years in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In the Pittsburgh neighborhood of East Liberty/Garfield where I live and where my daughter grew up and became an elementary school teacher, "Stella Ella Ola" rhymes were known as "Slap Billie Ola" or "Strolla Ola Ola". And "Quack Dilly Oso" was known as "Quack Diddley Oso".

In 2001, I launched my (now no longer active) cultural website. That website was consistently online until October 2014. Most of the examples of children's recreational rhymes that were featured on that website were either submitted by visitors or gleaned from my online searchers. As a result, I realized that "Stella Ella Ola" or "Quack Dilly Oso" were the names that most people used to refer to a host of rhymes with similar structures and lyrics and which were chanted while playing lightly competitive group hand slapping games.

In 2004, I joined the online Mudcat folkloric music discussion forum, and was a very active member of that forum until 2009. My special interest in that forum were children's recreational rhymes and 19th African American religious and non-religious songs. In addition to presenting multiple examples of specific songs and rhymes, Mudcatters were (and still are) interested in determining or at least attempting to determine the source/s for those songs and rhymes. And some Mudcatters, like me, were (and probably still are) also interested in documenting how songs and rhymes remain the same or change during the same time and during different times among different populations.

All of this serves as background to my reactions in 2007 to a long running Mudcat discussion thread on the 19th century or older song "In China There Lived A Great Man". That song is the focus of Part I of this pancocojams series. Prior to reading song examples in that discussion thread, I had reached the tentative conclusion that some Spanish song or rhyme was the source of "Stella Ella Ola"/"Quack Dilly Oso" rhymes. I reached that conclusion because many of those rhymes contained the Spanish words such as "chica", "chico", "rico", "senorita" or some folk processed forms of those words. But I questioned that conclusion after reading song examples (and particularly the choruses of the songs) that were posted on that Mudcat discussion forum discussion thread of "In China There Lived A Great Man".

Here's my first comment on that discussion thread: (That comment was written in response to the example of "In China There Lived A Great Man" that had been posted right before it, and which included this chorus)
Ekel-tekel. Injured man!
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: 'Once in China there lived a great man...
From: Azizi
Date: 19 Jun 07 - 11:04 PM

"Chingery-rico-rico-day" ??!

Could "Once in China there lived a great man" be the source [or "a" source] for the children's handclap rhyme "Stella Ella Ola"?

If so, there goes my theory about "Stella Ella Ola's Spanish origin...

Here's an example of "Stella Ella Ola" for those who aren't familiar with it:

Subject: RE: Kids chant Stella Ola Ola / Stella Ella Ola
Date: 03 Apr 07 - 01:17 AM

wow, i'm surprised i found this...we used to sing it like this in the early 90s

Stella ella ola
clap clap clap
singin' es chico chico
chico chico cracker jack
es chico chico
falo falo
i gotta blow my nose
so, 1,2,3,4,5!"

Here's the only response to my comment in that discussion thread- (The comment is from a participant in that discussion thread who went by the name of Q :
Subject: RE: Lyr Req: 'Once in China there lived a great man...
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 19 Jun 07 - 11:48 PM

"I doubt a relationship. Chingery Chan was changed around by Louisa May Alcott; I think "Under The Lilacs," where she used it, (1878) is on line (also see the post by Joe up above.
There seem to be a number of these songs- children and the writers for them are inventive!

On the other hand-"
I re-posted the same comment in that Mudcat "Stella Ella Ola" discussion thread which I started (see above link). However, I received no responses to that comment there either.
Click for a Project Gutenberg edition of Louisa May Alcott's 1878. The "In China There Lived A Great Man" example is given in Chapter 21.
As somewhat of an aside, *Q (Frank Staplin) was the one who had informed me about that Mudcat folk music forum via an email that he sent to my website in 2004. Q also was the first person who included this information in that "In China There Lived A Great Man discussion thread about the 1945 American novelty song "Chickery Chick". If I'm not mistaken, there's only one other mention (to date) in that discussion thread about that "Chickery Chick" song.

But it wasn't until now (October 21, 2016) that my interest in determining the source or sources for "Stella Ella Ola"/"Quack Diddley Oso" songs was revived*. I'm sharing my conclusions in this post that the main sources for "Stella Ella Ola"/"Quack Diddley Oso" rhymes are "Chickery Chick" and folk processed forms of "Chickery Chick"'s source song "In China There Lived A Great Man".
My interest in determining the source or sources for Stella Ella Ola was revived because I happened to visit Mudcat (as I sometimes do) and saw that a new comment was posted to that rhyme's discussion thread that I started in 2005. Here's that comment:

"Subject: RE: Kids chant Stella Ola Ola / Stella Ella Ola
From: GUEST,Anon2
Date: 20 Oct 16 - 09:59 PM

I grew up in the greater Vancouver BC area, the version I learned was

Stella Stella Ola
Clap Clap Clap
Singing ess chiga chiga
Chiga chiga chap
Singing ess chiga chiga
Valo valo valo valo valo fire
1 2 3 4 5!

It's funny how it's so close but not identical to Anon's from Aug 2012.. though my version's nearly 20 years older than hers.

Anyone know the origin of this song/game?"
Initially, I thought that "Stella Ella Ola" rhymes had a Spanish language origin. But I haven't found any examples of Spanish versions of these rhymes that originated in a Spanish language country/community (as opposed to being introduced to those populations.).

I believe that the source for the large family of "Stella Ella Ola"/ "Quack Dilly Oso" rhymes (and other titles) is the chorus to the 1945 American novelty song "Chickery Chick" plus a great deal of folk processing (folk etymology; oral tradition).

"Chickery Chick" appears to me to be a re-working of the nonsense word filled choruses the 19th century or earlier racist (anti-Chinese) ridicule song "Chingery Chang" (also known as "Once In China There Lived A Great Man".) So "Chingery Chan" can also be said to be a source of the non-racist, nonsense word filled "Stella Ella Ola"/ "Quack Dilly Oso" rhymes.

"Sylvia Dee (born Josephine Moore Proffitt, October 22, 1914 – June 12, 1967) was an American lyricist and novelist best known for writing the lyrics to "Too Young", a hit for Nat King Cole, "The End of the World", a hit for Skeeter Davis and "Bring Me Sunshine". She also wrote songs for Elvis Presley in the films Blue Hawaii and Speedway. She was born in Little Rock, Arkansas.

She co-wrote "I Taught Him Everything He Knows" with Arthur Kent; this song was recorded by Ella Fitzgerald on her 1968 Capitol release Misty Blue. She was the lyricist for the 1947 Broadway musical Barefoot Boy with Cheek.

Dee wrote the words to a nonsense song that went to number 1 in 1945 called "Chickery Chick". The music was written by Sidney Lippman and it was played by Sammy Kaye's orchestra. Its nonsense lyrics included "Chickery chick, cha-la, cha-la"."...

(Sylvia Dee and Sid Lippman)

Once there lived a chicken who would say "chick-chick"
"Chick-chick" all day
Soon that chick got sick and tired of just "chick-chick"
So, one morning he started to say:

"Chickery-chick, cha-la, cha-la
Check-a-la romey in a bananika
Bollika, wollika, can't you see
Chickery chick is me?"

Every time you're sick and tired of just the same old thing
Sayin' just the same old words all day
Be just like the chicken who found something new to sing
Open up your mouth and start to say


After reading the examples of "In China There Lived A Great Man" (and other titles) as found on the Mudcat discussion thread whose link is given above and as found elsewhere, I strongly believe that the chorus of the 1945 novelty hit song "Chickery Chick" is a re-working of the choruses of "In China There Lived A Great Man" without their problematic racial references.

I'm less certain about whether these two songs and the rhymes share the same or similar tunes. I'll leave that decision to someone who has a better musical ear than I do.

"CHICKERY CHICK" VIDEO: Chickery Chick by Sammy Kaye

beninski707, Uploaded on Jan 10, 2010

Here's an old 78 single that apparently topped the charts sometime in the 1940's. Chickery Chick by Sammy Kaye was the song. The wear on the record is evident as you hear it being played on an old console stereo with a Dual turntable. To all you people out there who know this and those who don't, enjoy!!
Here are four comments from this sound file's discussion thread:
Peggy Dover, 2012
"Does anyone know if this song was also popular in the UK? My mom used to call my dad "Chickery" as a pet name. She sang this song."

Neil Murray, 2012
"Yes Peggy, this song was popular in Britain. It was the top selling song on sheet music from early March to late May in 1946 - with a one-week gap when Cruising Down the River was top for one week !"

pedonbio, 2013
"This song was the Billboard #1 for three separate weeks in November and December, 1945." 

illiputlittle, 2016
"My mother always sang this song to me along with Mairzy Doats, Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo, and Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. I think her love of silly word songs fostered my love of words in general."

"Stella Ella Ola" (and other titles such as "Quack Dilly Oso", "Strolla Ola Ola", and "Slap Billie Ola") is a hand slapping game that is played by a group of people standing (or, less often, sitting) in a circle. A designated starter slaps the hand of the person on her or his right while the group says the first word. That person slaps the hand of the person to her or his right while the group chants the next syllable. This continues with each syllable (or one syllable word) until the last syllable is chanted. The person whose hand is slapped on that last syllable is out. This continues until there are only two people remaining. Those two face each other and take turns slapping each other's hand while chanting the rhyme. The person whose hand is slapped at the end is "out" and the other person is the "winner".

A VIDEO OF "STELLA ELLA OLA" (with examples from that video's comment section)
Stella ella ola clap clap clap say yes chico chico

wadafera, Uploaded on Jul 20, 2008
I learned from participating in this video's discussion thread that the adults in this video were volunteering in Mexico and taught this rhyme to the children.

For some reason, the comments that I wrote (I believe in 2010) aren't included in that discussion thread, but a commenter who replied to one of those comments specifically mentioned my name.
Examples of "Stella Ella Ola" from that video's discussion thread:
1. Lydia Dunn, 2010
"lol mines is
Stella Ella Ola Quack Quack Quack s chica chica chica chica slap jack falay falay falay falay falay with a 1, 2, 3...
lol mines is all wrong but this is what most of us say in Pittsburgh lol"

2. Colleen, 2010
"woah we did it such a different way at camp a few years back
Stella ella ola clap clap clap
sing it yes chiga, chiga, chiga chiga, chat chat
yes chiga chiga love love, love, love love 5, 4, 3, 2, 1
weird lol"

3. Caroline Burg, 2012
"Mine is Stella elle ola teega teega shack shack singing cola cola cola cola cola"

4. kkboo nyslome,2012
"mine was
Quack didly o so quack quack quack
from San toritsa ur momma smells like pizza so give it to ur teacher fah lo fah lo fah lo fah lo fah lo 123456789 ...10!"
Notice that this example of "Quack Didly Oso" is in the discussion thread for a "Stella Ella Ola" video.

5. Jacqueline romans, 2013
"mine is stella ella ola clap clap clap sey it ess chico chico, blow blow, the toilet overflows say it 12345678910"

6. RaeKayz, 2013
"Ha, we do it differently!
Stella Ella Ola Quack Quack Quack
Say yes chico, chico, chico, chico, chat
Say yes chico, chico, below, below
The toilet overflows
So, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10!"
The "Quack Quack Quack" in this example may explain the first word in the "Quack Didley Oso" rhymes. Notice also "chat" in that example. "Quack Quack Quack" is also given "Clap Clap Clap", "Shack Shack Shack", "Chat Chat Chat" etc. in some other examples from this rhyme family. But where did the words (names?) "Stella Ella Ola" come from?

7. Singing turtle forever
"stella ella ola chap chap chap singing s chico chico, chico chico cracker jacker s chico chico bologna bologna with cheese and macaroni fire 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10: thats how we sing it and on 10 you have to pull your hands away"

8. Beerwoman!, 2016
"Stella stella ola clap clap clap, singing es cheego cheego, cheega cheega chap, singing ess cheega chee-ga, val-o, val-o, say 1, 2, 3, 4, 5! - 90's, Vancouver BC"

Beerwoman!, 2016
"+Beerwoman! And it always ended on 5! That's the loser, five."

9. Ava Fountain, 2016
"The one I do is stella ola ola clap clap clap singing s Chica chica chica chica chap s chica chica blow blow blow your nose and 12345"

10. missmelodies52, 2016
"Stella ella ola clap clap clap singing es chico chico, chico chico chap, singing es chico chico aloa, aloa, aloa, loa loa 1 2 3 4 5!"

A VIDEO OF "QUACK DIDDLEY OSO" (with examples from that video's comment section)

Quack Diddly O' So

TiDoSTAR, Uploaded on Feb 10, 2007

Greese cast party
This video documents the use (since at least the early 2000s) by teens and young adults of certain types of formerly children's (and mostly girls only) hand clap rhymes for fun and as stress reducers. Rhymes such as "Quack Diddley Oso" (also known as "Quack Dilly Oso", "Stella Ella Ola", and other names) and "Down By The Banks Of The Hanky Panky" (and similar titles) are chanted by groups while playing lightly competitive hand slap games.

Here are some examples of this rhyme from this video's discussion thread (given in chronological order with the oldest year given first; numbers are assigned for referencing purposes only:
1. Matthew Austin, 2007
"Quack Diddy oh so
Quack quack quack
Santa Rita
Rita rita rita
Fill-o Fill-o
Fill-o fill-o fill-o

2. Delaney Pierson, 2010
"quack diddly oso
quack quack quack
singing sam a rico rico rico rico
flora flora flora flora flora

3. Divine, 2013
"Quack a Didly o'so
Quack quack quack
Senorita your mama smells like pizza
Delora Delora i'll kick you out the door-a
Say 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10"

4. AmethystSoldier, 2013
"I love all of these variations!!! At my school, it was Quack dilly esta quack quack quack boom senorita rita rita rita Lavora Lavora Vora Vora 1234."

5. Tepimatsu-san-matsuno, 2013
"quack diddly o so
quack quack quack
from santa rico
rico rico rico
flordia flordia
florida florida florida

6. MakeupForever Kay, 2015
"Quack delioso quack quack quack hit it senorita your mother smell like pizza felloa felloa felloa lloa lloa hit it 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 !"

7. schumache101, 2016
"Quack diddly oso quack, quack, quack, singing San Marico Rico, Rico, Rico Rico, flora, flora, flora flora flora, 1 2 3 4"

Click" for more examples of "Stella Ella Ola"/Quack Didley Oso" rhymes. Also, click the tags given below for more examples of "Stella Ella Ola" and "Quack Diddley Oso" rhymes on pancocojams.

This concludes Part II of this two part series.

Thanks for visiting pancocojams.

Visitor comments are welcome.


  1. My name is Justin. When I was about 8 (1980) the Vancouver Bach Children’s Chorus sang Carmina Burana and before that some other things as part of the programme for their first concerts. someone could contact the Children’s Chorus for more details:

    Backstage at the Orpheum Theatre in Vancouver, there were some guest performer children from somewhere in Africa. I don’t remember where. We had no common language and they taught a bunch of us this song and we all played it in a circle for days.

    Finding out where the kids were from at that first performance may tell you what the words are.

    I remember our phonetic version of what the kids taught as something along the lines of (my memeory May be wrong because my 8 year old just came home singing it here in Ontario, 38 years later):

    Es chico chico wanna wanna go for
    Es chico chico chico chack
    Say Es chico chico
    Valo Valo Valo falo falova
    1 2 3 4 5

    This was not what the kids taught us; it was just our anglicized version of what they said

    We all played it for ages after and took it back to our various mostly west side and south side schools to play with our school friends

    Years later I remember meeting kids at summer camp who weren’t there and being surprised that they knew the song and game too

  2. My mother says the Bach Choir started later in the 80s. Maybe 82 or 83 -Justin

    1. Thanks a lot for sharing that interesting recollection, Justin.

      I think it's likely that someone from the USA visiting or working in that African nation taught the "Stella Ella Ola"/es chico chico" sounding rhyme to those African children who you met. That's one way that recreational rhymes are spread throughout the world especially before the internet.

      One love!