Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Versions Of "Eenie Meenie Miney Mo" Counting Out Rhymes In The United Kingdom

 Edited by Azizi Powell

This post is part of an ongoing pancocojams series on the "eenie meenie miney mo" counting out/choosing it rhymes and on eenie meenie epsileenie" jump rope/hand clap rhymes (or similar titles).

This pancocojams post presents some general information about "Eenie Meenie Miney Mo" counting out/choosing it rhymes and presents a compilation of some versions of these rhymes from the United Kingdom. 

This post doesn't include speculation about the origin/s of "Eenie Meenie Miney Mo" rhymes.

I'm particularly interested in documented some examples of "Eeenie Meenie Miney Mo" rhymes from the United States that include demographic information (particularly when and where these rhymes were/are chanted). For folkloric purposes, I'm also interested in documenting examples of "Eenie Meenie Miney Mo" rhymes from the United Kingdom which include "the 'n' word" and which also include recollections about the chanter's reaction to and/or other people's reactiions to that word in those examples. 

The content is provided for folkloric and socio-cultural information. 

I am not compiling these examples for recreational purposes as I consider "the n word" to be very offensive regardless of the context. 

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all who are quoted in this post.
Click for the pancocojams post entitled "
Versions Of "Eenie Meenie Miney Mo" Counting Out Rhymes In The United States".

Also, c
lick for for Part I and for Part II of a 2015 pancocojams series about "Versions Of "Eenie Meenie Miney Mo" Counting Out Rhymes In The United States."

This 2021 post may contain a few of the examples that are included in one of those 2015 posts. 
DISCLAIMER: This post isn't meant to be a comprehensive listing of online examples of these rhymes.

NOTE: The word that is commonly given as "the n word" is given as "n--ger" or other incomplete spellings in this post. Those euphemisms are noted by an asterisk: *. 

"Eeny, meeny, miny, moe"—which can be spelled a number of ways—is a children's counting rhyme, used to select a person in games such as tag, or for selecting various other things. It is one of a large group of similar rhymes in which the child who is pointed to by the chanter on the last syllable is either "chosen" or "counted out". The rhyme has existed in various forms since well before 1820[1] and is common in many languages with similar-sounding nonsense syllables.

Since many similar counting rhymes existed earlier, it is difficult to know its exact origin.


American and British versions

Some versions of this rhyme use the racial slur "n--ger*" instead of "tiger". Iona and Peter Opie quote the following version:

Eena, meena, mina, mo,
Catch a n--ger* by his toe;
If he squeals let him go,
Eena, meena, mina, mo.[3]

This version was similar to that reported by Henry Carrington Bolton as the most common version among American schoolchildren in 1888.[10].

Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Mo,
Catch a n--ger* by the toe,
If he won't work then let him go;
Skidum, skidee, skidoo.
But when you get money, your little bride
Will surely find out where you hide,
So there's the door and when I count four,
Then out goes you.[11]

It was also used by Rudyard Kipling in his "A Counting-Out Song", from Land and Sea Tales for Scouts and Guides, published in 1935.[12] This may have helped popularise this version in the United Kingdom where it seems to have replaced all earlier versions until the late twentieth century.[3]

Iona and Peter Opie pointed out in The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (1951) that the word "n--ger" was common in American folklore, but unknown in any English traditional rhyme or proverb.[3] This, combined with evidence of various other versions of the rhyme in the British Isles pre-dating this post-slavery version, would seem to suggest that it originated in North America, although the apparently American word "holler" was first recorded in written form in England in the 14th century, whereas according to the Oxford English Dictionary the words "N-ger*" or "'n--ger*" were first recorded in England in the 16th century with their current disparaging meaning. The 'olla' and 'toe' are found as nonsense words in some 19th century versions of the rhyme."... 

These examples are given in no particular order. Numbers are included for referencing purposes only. Examples from the same website are given in chronological order.

1. ...The version of "eeny, meeny, miny, moe" that was current in playgrounds when I was a child (1960's Britain), replaced the word "tiger" with [word removed in order to comply with Google's Publisher Policy]. This is of course totally unacceptable by today's standards, given the massively pejorative and racist overtones that the word has gained over the ensuing years. At the time, however, it was used in total innocence.

 The "n____" version was current among U.S. children in the 1950s. As I understand it, the word hasn't gained racist overtones since then: it had them all the time. No, that's not strong enough. Not just overtones. The whole meaning of the word was just plain racist. What has changed is people's sensibilities about racism--including the words that help to perpetuate it. (In the U.S., we had a civil rights movement that got national attention inthe 1960s, followed by other changes in the culture.)

: There were more lyrics. The next verse started "If he hollers (or another verb here?), make him pay / Fifty dollars every day." I don't remember the rest. It might be in a book I don't have, Iona and Peter Opie, "The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren."
-R. Berg, February 22, 2002,
This is how this portion of that comment was written in that discussion thread.

As documented by some examples in the pancocojams post about United States versions of "Eenie Meenie Miney Mo", some United States children in the 1950s (including me) chanted "catch a tiger by the toe" and not "catch an 'n word' by the toe..

2. "
Eeny meeny miny mo
Sit the baby on the poh
When it's done wipe it's bum
Eeny meeny miny mo

Eenameena macaraca Airidackeraca Chickeraca boomeracka om pom push

Northern England, industrial, 1950's"
-Wyrd Sister, 01 May 02,

3. "Also from North East England (50s 60s):

Eenie meeny mackeracka Dare-dum dominacker Ting-a-ling-a-lollipop Bing bang boosh.

Incidentally, 'eenie meeny myny mo' is one to four in one of the Celtic tongues ... 'hickory dickory dock' is eight nine ten."
-GUEST,Phil A,  01 May 02,

4. "I[n] The East End of London it used as a dip, and went..

Immenacka ricker racka
Rare are dominacka
Chicka bocka
Bocka chicka
Om Pom Push.

And the person whom push landed on was unceremoniously pushed out of the ring.

OK. Spuds in!"
-Bert, 01 May 02,
Here's information from about the term "dip" as it is used in tha comment:
"Ip dip is a rhythmic counting-out game with many variations, the purpose of which is to select an individual from a group, for instance to choose the starting player of a game. It has been commonly used in British playgrounds for many years.

The speaker of the rhyme points to a different person in order as each stressed syllable is spoken; the person pointed to as the final syllable is spoken is thereby elected."...

5. "We had (Glasgow late fifties-early sixties)

catch a N----- by the toe
If he cries let him go

my mother said that N----- was a bad wrd and that we should use 'darky' kind of hard to believe now. Kids nowadays use 'spider' which works well with the rhyme.”…
-Fiona, 02 Jul 06,
This is the way this comment is written in that discussion thread.

"Glasgow" is a city in Scotland.

6. "
Here's one from Cyfathfa Juniors and Brecon Road Infants School in Merthyr Thdfil*.

Eeni meanii mackaraka
Day Die dominaker
Cheeky Lacker
Lolly Popper
Out goes one,
Out goes Two,
Out goes another one
and out Goes you!"
-GUEST,richd, 03 Jul 06,
Merthyr Thdfil is a town in Wales.

7. "
We had a number of counting rhymes in the 70's.


We used: -

Eenie meenie minie mo
Catch a tiger/n--ger* by the toe
When he hollers, let him go
Eenie meenie minie mo.

We mostly said 'tiger', although 'n--ger'* was known of.

Incedentally, the word 'n--ger*' wasn't considered any more insulting than 'brummie', 'geordie' or 'scouse' are now.


Less well known, but more prized was: -

Eenie meenie mackeracker
rare rare dominacker
chicker packer lollipopper
om pom push

(the spelling is arbitrary!)


Quite popular was: -

Racing car number nine
Losing petrol all the time
How many gallons did it loose?

At this point the person whose 'spud' (i.e. fist) was counted on the word 'loose' would supply a number, say 'seven'. The rhyme was then completed using the supplied number, thus: -

One, two, three, four, five, six, seven
And out you must GO.


Later, we got lazy and the counting rhymes degenerated to this: -

Girl guide, boy scout, OUT.


And: -

Ittle ottle,
Sh-t* in a bottle,
Ittle ottle,

Nice, eh?"
-GUEST,Stephen (from Doncaster, South Yorkshire), 04 Aug 08,
This word is fully spelled out in this comment.

8…"Our Eeny Meeny, in Birmingham England in the 60/70s was:

Eeny meeny miny mo
Catch a n--ger* by his toe
If he squeals, let him go
Eeny meeny miny mo

We were a school of 6-10 yr old middle class white kids and if anybody knew what nigger meant, I certainly didn't. I dare say we'd have still used it if we did; kids are not very pc left to their own devices and at that time there was no general awareness of racism. We had our own vocabulary of taunt and our own 'isms' too.

We had two school buses, one of which came past the Monyhull Hall mental hospital (as it then was). Inmates of the hospital were known to us as 'Monnies' (obviously derived from the name of the place) and this was, by extension, applied to kids who came in on that bus. "You're a Monny" rendered in a high-pitched Brummie accent takes me right back... We were little horrors.

Fortunately most kids grow out of it under the civilising influence of parents and teachers and generation by generation we leave it behind us. I hear no hint of it in my daughter's playground, but sadly they still find ways to be cruel to each other."
-GUEST,Apina, 09 Jan 08,

"As children living in London in the 1960s/70s we used to say the following:-

Eeni meeni maca racka,
rare rye domin acka,
Chicka pocka lolli poppa,
Om pom push!"
-GUEST, 06 Jul 10.

"The version taught to me in Ireland in the 1970's was:

 Eeny Meany Macka Raka, Ray Row Domino,
Acka Packa Juli-acka, Tim Tom Tush!

It's interesting to see how it's a variant of the older one's above.
-GUEST, 25 Mar 11,

"Eenie Meenie Makka-Rakka;
Dare, die, dominakka;
Chikka-rakka, om bom BUSH!

Wales, Pontypridd, 1982, from father who said he learned it in his childhood, same area, 10-20 years before.
- GUEST, 10 Sep 17,

12. "Hi, I was at primary school in South Wales and learned it like this:

Eeny meeny mackeracca,
dare dai dominacca,
chickeracca pom pom,
push out
you are not it.

It looks like there are a huge number of variations to this. We always used it just as a way of choosing teams or who was It."
- GUEST,Mark, 31 Aug 18,

13. "
If anyone's interested, growing up in Ireland I only ever heard the "n--ger*" version, so it's not just a US phenomenon. In fact, the first time I heard the "tiger" version was in the Simpsons episode Homer Defined."
-RMoloney 22:29, 7 August 2005 (UTC),,_meeny,_miny,_moe

14." I grew up in Scotland in the non-pc 1970's and 80's I didn't know there were other, non-racist, versions of the rhyme. Many of the kids I played with at school or in my street even updated the rhyme and used "Paki" instead of “n--ger*”. Appalling really. —
-Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 03:42, 30 July 2008 (UTC),  ,,_meeny,_miny,_moe

15. "Without meaning to turn this into a page of reminiscences - I think it is quite interesting how widespread this rhyme is and the variations that exist. Growing up in NE Scotland in the late 80s/early 90s, we said "tigger" but were well aware of the origin. Though we substituted in the lines "If he squeals let him go" and added "You are not it" at the end. It might be worthwhile making this page a little less US-centric too IMHO
-taras 23:17, 11 November 2005 (UTC),,_meeny,_miny,_moe

16. "Again, completely anecdotal but I remember hearing "catch a Paki by the toe" (i.e. Pakistani) growing up in England in the 90s. "
-Black Butterfly, 
12:58, 21 January 2006 (UTC),,_meeny,_miny,_moe

17. "In the sixties growing up in England all I ever heard was the version which used the word 'n--ger*'. It was all pervasive and could be quoted by adults and children alike. There was no shock value when it was used. We knew the word could be used to refer to a black person but as used by us in the playground it was devoid of any racist tone and served only as a means of selecting children for games in the playground. The heavy promotion of other versions since the eighties appears to have replaced it, in many publications, with more PC versions and sometimes history is written as though the original version did not exist at all, but that doesn't make it so."
- Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:16, 12 February 2011 (UTC),,_meeny,_miny,_moe

18. "
At school in North London 1972-78 we used the n--ger* version, without any ill intention; it was just part of the rhyme. This was also noted in the TV show The Goodies where they replaced the N--ger* word with "Hmm Hmm Hmm" a series of throat clearing coughs to indicate that embarrassment at the word's inclusion in the rhyme. This to me shows that a non-bowdlerised version wasn't prevalent at the time."
-DavidFarmbrough (talk) 23:29, 8 August 2011 (UTC),,_meeny,_miny,_moe

19."Coming from the UK, I have never heard "tiger". Nor have I ever heard "baby". I have only heard "n--ger*" and "tinker" - a variation that nobody else has mentioned. Why haven't I heard "baby"? Is it something that was introduced in the last 10-20 years?
-Oxonian2006 00:25, 29 November 2006 (UTC),,_meeny,_miny,_moe

20. "I remember in Scotland in the 1950s the version:

Eeny meeny miny mo: Sit the baby on the po: When he's done, wipe his bum: Eeny meeny miny mo." — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 11:20, 23 February 2013 (UTC),,_meeny,_miny,_moe

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