The other day I was thinking about the games I used to play in the schoolyard when I was a kid. The most popular ones back then were hopscotch, jump rope and ball (as in bouncing a ball, not pitching one).
The rhymes we used to recite while playing these games – probably because of how absurd they were – still are stuck in my head even after all these years.
For example, I remember one rhyme, to which we would bounce a ball: “Bouncy, bouncy ball-y, I broke the leg of my dolly. My mother came out and gave me a clout, and turned my petticoat inside out!”
I’m pretty sure the mother in that rhyme would be arrested (or committed) if she did those things nowadays.
And there was the famous jump-rope brainteaser. While jumping, you had to go through the alphabet and think of a man’s name, a woman’s name, the name of a place and an occupation for each letter, in order. The letter B, for example, might have gone something like this:
“B, my name is Barbara, my husband’s name is Bob. We come from Boston and we sell bananas.” It wasn’t advisable to copy someone else’s creation, either. The next person who had to use the letter B had to think of something original, like Bonnie, Billy, Baltimore and boots.
When you couldn’t think of anything to fit a specific letter, however, you lost a turn and the next person jumping had to pick up where you left off. I always thought the game was pretty easy until it came to the letter X. No one ever wanted to get the letter X, mainly because it never failed to start arguments.
“X, my name is Xena, my husband’s name is Xavier. We come from Xanthus and we sell xylophones.”
Someone inevitably would say, “Xena and xylophone start with the letter Z!”
“They do not!” someone else would shout. “They only sound like Z-words! They start with an X!”
“And there is no such place as Xanthus! You made that up!” another would protest.
“Did not! I looked it up in the encyclopedia!”
Seeing we didn’t have a dictionary or encyclopedia out on the playground, we had to take the jumper’s word for it. But we always suspected that any place that started with the letter X had to be a fake (although I later did find out that Xanthus actually was an ancient city in Asia Minor).
The letter Q was no picnic, either. I always got challenged whenever I used “Quintella” or “Quarantina” for the female’s name.
Actually, it really didn’t matter what I said because I usually ended up tripping over the jump rope and nearly breaking my neck long before I ran out of ideas for the alphabet letters anyway. So I was doomed to lose my turn no matter what.
And then, when picking sides for teams for games, we didn’t use the regular “eenie, meenie, miney, moe,” rhyme. No, we learned a more complicated one that made no sense whatsoever: “Eenie meenie, ucastini, ah boo bumblini, acha-bay, acha-boo, out goes Y-O-U!”
There was one girl in the group, Diane, who, when the “out goes Y-O-U” part didn’t end up on the person she wanted, inevitably would continue to add words until it did. For example, “Out goes Y-O-U…and the cow says ‘moo!’”
I suppose it’s safe to say Diane liked to manipulate things in her favor when it came to playing games (that’s a polite way of saying she cheated.)
And I’m wondering about a rhyme I learned when I was really young, and if anyone else remembers it the way I learned it. It was supposed to be: “Ring around the rosie, a pocket full of posies. Ashes, ashes, we all fall down!”
Well, it wasn’t until I was an adult that I discovered it was supposed to be “ashes.” I learned it as, “husha, husha, we all fall down!” Now I’m wondering if I might have learned it that way because my ears were full of wax and I misheard it, or if anyone else actually learned it that way.
Then, of course, there was the rhyme I heard more often than I cared to: “Silly Sally went to town, walking backwards, upside down. On the way, she met a pig – a silly pig. They danced a jig.”
So Sally was immortalized in rhyme for being backwards, silly, and for not knowing which end was up.
I’m pretty sure it was written specifically for me.