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  #1  
Old 01-01-2001, 05:08 PM
bibliophage bibliophage is offline
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Quote:
What's your name?
Puddentain.
Where do you live?
Down the lane.
What's your number?
Cucumber.
I learned this verse at my father's knee, but I have never understood what the heck it was supposed to mean.

Who wrote it? Who/what is Puddentain? Is that the right spelling? Is Puddentain male or female? Is the number a house number, a telephone number, or some weird numerology thing? And why is the number not a number?

Our long-lost friend Jois started a Puddentane thread more than a year ago, but my questions were not answered there.
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  #2  
Old 01-01-2001, 07:02 PM
aseymayo aseymayo is offline
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I've heard the Puddentain/Ask me again I'll tell you the same version. I 've also heard it "Puddentame" - to better rhyme with "name" and "same," I suppose.

AFAIK, the "Puddentain" rhyme is just kid responses to nosy questions (e.g.What's your name, kid? I'm Bart Simpson, who the hell are you?). The replies are meant to be nonsense and to foil the interrogator. Puddentain isn't a specific person, it's more of an innocent version of a made-up name along the lines of "I.P. Freely" or "Dick Hertz". (I tried looking up variations of "Puddentain" without much luck, but I did find that "tain" means a tinfoil plate. So maybe it just means "Pudding plate"?)

The number could mean house number or phone number - I don't know how long this rhyme has been round. "Cucumber!"
is a good cheeky retort, plus it rhymes with "number" and is funnier than "lumber" or "slumber."

I don't know how much luck you'll have tracking down the author. I think this is an oral-tradition style of thing, like counting-out rhymes that we all learned as kids, but never saw written down anywhere.

Engine, engine number nine
Going down Chicago Line
If the train should jump the track
Do you want your money back?
Y-E-S spells "Yes"
And you are not
IT!
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  #3  
Old 01-02-2001, 09:07 AM
scratch1300 scratch1300 is offline
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Iona and Peter Opie delved into the etiology of this in their excellent The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren. "Puddentain", an ancient name with various spellings, is, IIRC, a medieval devil's moniker.
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Old 01-02-2001, 10:08 AM
bibliophage bibliophage is offline
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Thank you. My friendly neighborhood library has that book, so I'll check it out the next time I'm up there.
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  #5  
Old 01-02-2001, 10:35 AM
Spoke Spoke is offline
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Interesing. The version I always heard (and used, of course) was:

What's your name?

Puddentain. Ask me again, and I'll tell you the same.
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