The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #63097   Message #2395864
Posted By: Azizi
23-Jul-08 - 08:15 AM
Thread Name: Folklore: Do kids still do clapping rhymes?
Subject: RE: Folklore: Do kids still do clapping rhymes?
From: GUEST,23 Jul 08 - 06:12 AM

Thank you for your interesting and informative post. I'm eager to learn moe about continuity & changes in English language children's rhymes that are recited in other languages.

Guest, 23 July 08-06:12 AM, you wrote "It is extremely interesting for me to learn that the handclapping games are associated with black girls!"

I would like to clarify any comments that I might have made that led you to this conclusion, by posting this excerpt from a portion of a book I'm writing on English language children's rhymes:

There are multiple sources for the text of American [United States] children's playground rhymes {the term "rhymes" as used here includes handclap games, ring [circle] games, jump rope rhymes, foot stomping cheers, and other types of usually rhyming chants}.

a)Verses of or references included in American [United States] children's playground rhymes come from a variety of sources including other handclap games & ring {circle} games from the United States, and other nations, but particularly the Great Britain

[italics used for emphasis]

b)Verses of or references included in American playground rhymes may also come from Mother Goose & other nursery rhymes; R&B songs;
Hip-Hop songs; Rock & Roll songs including references to R&B/Hip Hop, and Rock & Roll dances; cheerleader cheers, particularly dance style cheerleader cheers; fraternity & sorority steppin chants; drill team chants; gospel songs, particularly Black gospel songs; dance songs from 19th century African American slavery; songs from other cultures; and other types of songs.

c} Verses of or references included in American playground rhymes also come from folk customs such as the dozens insult exchange; contemporary street sayings & street slang; older/no longer used folk sayings & slang; military cadences; lines from or references to television shows or movies, including characters from those shows and stars from those shows; lines from television commercials; lines from product jingles; and references to popular cultural interest such as fashion, and sun sign astrology

Since the influence of African American culture is so deep, intertwined, and widespread in historical and present day American culture, it's not surprising that many of the textual sources of children's playground rhymes have come from and continue to come from African Americans. However, it would be inaccurate to say that all children's playground rhymes originate with African Americans. There may even be some basis for stating that the origin of most of American children's handclap rhymes and circle game songs that are still being played now did not originate among African Americans, though most of the text, and the performance activities have been adapted by African Americans.

That said, with regard to a relatively new style of playground rhyme-foot stomping cheers-most of the text originates in African American culture. And the performance activity of foot stomping cheers-which features girls usually standing in place while chanting call & response rhyming lines to their creation of bass sounding foot stomps alternating with {individual} handclaps or body pats-also clearly comes from traditional & contemporary African American culture

Click here for more information from my Cocojams website about foot stomping cheers


In my opinion, understanding the "originally" intended meaning of words & phrases in children's playground rhymes is often dependent on knowing the racial/ethnic origin of those rhymes. One example of this is the line "my name is [insert name]/I'm number nine/kickin it with Genuwine

These lines are from "Hollywood Swingin" {and similar titles}, a foot stomping cheer that later became a partner handclap rhyme. It's quite easy to misinterprete these lines if you didn't know that "kickin' it" means "spending social time with" and that "Genuwine" is the name of a popular male R&B singer.

"The spades go" is an interesting example of a phrase that has been separated from its original meaning. This phrase is found in a number of different children's handclap rhymes, among them this one:

The spades the spades the spades go iny miny popsa kiney i love bomaragn a hop a scoth a liver roch a peach a plum i have a stick of chewing gum and if u want the other half this is wut you say: amen amen amendiego sandieago bostn bruins rah rah rah boo boo boo criss cross apple sauce do me a favor get lost while ur at it drop dead either that or lose ur head bang on trash cans bang on tin cans i can u can nobody else can sitting on the bench nuthing to do along comes some one..cohey coochey coo! andu tickle the other person
By Sally on Friday, May 6, 2005 - 08:07 pm:

In my opinion, the phrase "the spades go" originally meant "The Black people go", depending on one's culture "spades" is a mildly or highly derogatory referent for Black people. Of course, I very much doubt that most-or any-child reciting this rhyme knows the original meaning of this phrase.

In summary, there are many sources for American children's playground rhymes. In my opinion, a person would be wrong if he or she indicated that all of the text of these rhymes originated with Black Americans. However, in my opinion, a person would be on much more solid ground if he or she indicated that much of the text for American playground rhymes either came from or was & is heavily influenced by past & present African American cultures.

-Azizi Powell