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The counting song as a type of work song

Jim Dixon 15 Nov 17 - 02:38 PM
Joe_F 15 Nov 17 - 06:08 PM
Joe Offer 15 Nov 17 - 06:45 PM
GUEST,henryp 16 Nov 17 - 08:29 AM
Nigel Parsons 16 Nov 17 - 09:42 AM
GUEST,ripov 17 Nov 17 - 04:47 PM
Joe Offer 17 Nov 17 - 06:53 PM
GUEST,henryp 20 Nov 17 - 09:07 AM
GUEST,ripov 20 Nov 17 - 06:17 PM
GUEST,henryp 21 Nov 17 - 08:16 AM
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Subject: The counting song as a type of work song
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 15 Nov 17 - 02:38 PM

I asked this question here a long time ago, and I never got a response. Maybe it's because my question was buried too deep in a thread and nobody noticed.

Several years ago I visited New Orleans as a tourist, and took a bus tour. The driver/tour-guide was a retired school teacher who had lived in New Orleans all his life. While driving past the French Market, which formerly sold mainly produce but now sells mainly things that appeal to tourists, he told us that as a kid he had earned pocket money by going there early in the morning, before school, and the stall owners would pay him to unload trucks. He mentioned: "...and they taught us to sing counting songs." He explained that, if a vendor had agreed to buy, say, 30 watermelons from a wholesaler, then the workers would have to count them as they unloaded them, and they would sing out the numbers as they did so.

I asked him to sing us a counting song, but he refused. He explained, though, that "any song that you already know can be turned into a counting song. You just sing numbers instead of words." That's all the information I got out of him.

It strikes me that this is both an effective way to count and a way to keep both buyers and sellers honest, since either side can "audit" the count. It might even point to the origin of the word "audit"--to listen. And of course, like any work song, it keeps the workers working steadily, in coordination. And this could be used in a lot of situations. And maybe it is no coincidence that the French Market is right next to the port of New Orleans, where fruit from the Caribbean is being transshipped from ocean-going ships to trucks, trains, and formerly riverboats and wagons for distribution all over North America. And this has been going on for about 300 years now.

Yet in all my years of knowing about various kinds of work song, I have never heard of a "counting song" being used this way. A Google search for "counting song" mainly turns up children's songs: "One little, two little, three little Indians...." which, I think, is not the same thing, but then I don't know the origin of Ten Little Indians, either.

So, has anyone heard of counting songs as a subtype of work songs? Has anyone researched or written about this?


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Subject: RE: The counting song as a type of work song
From: Joe_F
Date: 15 Nov 17 - 06:08 PM

An independent development: For some time I have counted off my morning exercises to the tune of Cwm Rhondda. The Amen brings it up to 30.


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Subject: RE: The counting song as a type of work song
From: Joe Offer
Date: 15 Nov 17 - 06:45 PM

Cwm Rhondda: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oevNjFeWUyQ

Lani Herrmann achieved a high level of infamy singing "Clementine" to this tune. "Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah," to those of us who don't speak Welsh.

I don't think we've decided whether or not "Banana Boat Song" has traditional roots or not. Could "six hand, seven hand, eight hand bunch" be a counting work song?

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: The counting song as a type of work song
From: GUEST,henryp
Date: 16 Nov 17 - 08:29 AM

Yan tan tethera

Yan Tan Tethera is a sheep-counting rhyme/system traditionally used by shepherds in Northern England and earlier in some other parts of England and the British Isles.

Until the Industrial Revolution, the use of traditional number systems was common among shepherds, especially in the dales of the Lake District.

The Yan Tan Tethera system was also used for counting stitches in knitting. The words derive from a Brythonic Celtic language.


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Subject: RE: The counting song as a type of work song
From: Nigel Parsons
Date: 16 Nov 17 - 09:42 AM

Folklore: Shepherds counting systems

Before we start going over all the old ground again.

Cheers
Nigel


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Subject: RE: The counting song as a type of work song
From: GUEST,ripov
Date: 17 Nov 17 - 04:47 PM

Joe - I've often wondered if 'bunch' is related to the Indian 'panch'(or something like that) - five - (and so our 'punch'), which would suggest a whole hand.


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Subject: RE: The counting song as a type of work song
From: Joe Offer
Date: 17 Nov 17 - 06:53 PM

Hmmmmm. I don't think so, Ripov. I think that in this case, a bunch is just a bunch.

My favorite verse in the song is: "a beautiful bunch of ripe bananas hides the deadly black tarantula."

joe


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Subject: RE: The counting song as a type of work song
From: GUEST,henryp
Date: 20 Nov 17 - 09:07 AM

Preston used to be the UK port for the Geest banana boats from the Windward Islands, and the Banana King still has a stall on the market. Reports of large spiders were quite common.

Daily Mail 21 September 2016 A family have been forced to flee their home after dozens of the world's deadliest spiders burst out of a bunch of Asda bananas and crawled over their kitchen floor.

Mother-of-two Sophie Newcombe, 26, dropped the fruit in fright and both Sophie and her partner, Ashley Gamble, watched in horror as the Brazilian wandering spiders escaped in all directions through their Leicester home.

Wikipedia; Except in cases of anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction), no species of tarantula are dangerous to humans, and some species have become popular in the exotic pet trade.

The Guardian 23 November 2016 The Conservative chief whip has declined to remove a tarantula called Cronus from his office despite a House of Commons ban on pets.


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Subject: RE: The counting song as a type of work song
From: GUEST,ripov
Date: 20 Nov 17 - 06:17 PM

I do find the concept of everyone counting together attractive. I used to work for a fruit merchant, and every week the apples were short by exactly the number of prisoners who were detailed to help unload!


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Subject: RE: The counting song as a type of work song
From: GUEST,henryp
Date: 21 Nov 17 - 08:16 AM

An apple a week, what prisoners all seek.


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