I Know Something You Don't Know! [Melody of kids' teasing songs]

Neener neener neeeener!
You’re gonna get in trouble!
Na na na naaa na na!
Billy is a dummy head!
Suzie haas cooties!
et al

My neighbors held a yard sale across the street yesterday. They have 4 children, from age 5 to 13. And I heard some version of the one of the above cited taunts from one of the younger children. It got me wondering… where did that little melody come from? When did it start? From personal memory, I know it was around in the late 50s.

Origin? Not a clue.

However, you might want to look over this blog that demonstrates just how universal it is:

ETA: Note the response from MKR15 July 2011 21:57 that points to Leonard Bernstein delving into the issue, (without, of course, providing a terminus a quo).

And I know it was around in the early 50s. I bet the oldest Doper remembers it from his childhood. I wish my mom were still alive; she was born in 1913, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was around back then.

Neat. But I have always read, and used, for those rare times in which I have done so, terminus ante quem, for stylistic (grammatical) parallelism with its blood brother in historiography, terminus post quem.

If I understand it, and the Latin in it, terminus a quo doesn’t require some pinpoint. So do what everybody does, just grab one.

Sorry. I’m just more used to the parallelism of the terminus a quo/terminus ad quem construction. (In fact, terminus ante quem/terminus post quem do not even have entries in Merriam-Webster. This, of course, hardly invalidates the legitimate use of the “ante/post” usage, but the “a quo/ad quem” constructions are clearly cited loan phrases in English from the 16th century while the “ante/post” phrases are simply decent Latin. :stuck_out_tongue: )

Could it in any way be related to the “Ring around the Rosie” tune that they say dates to the bubonic plague in the Middle Ages?

It always sounded like Camptown Races to me, but Ring Around the Rosie is definitely the same tune.

As a kid in the 40s and 50s we used this to the same tune:

Cowardy, cowardy custard!
You can’t fight for mustard!

They may say that it dates to then, but there wasn’t much plague in 1881 (when the song first appeared in print).

I recall reading the song referred to the bubonic plague of the Middle Ages. The “ring around the rosie” referred to the skin blotches. “All fall down” referred to mass deaths. Etc. Not true after all?

I think we have a winner!! :smiley:

I guess the next issue is to figure out where THAT melody came from. It wasn’t unusual to attach different lyrics to existing melodies in earlier times. Isn’t that the way with many traditional folk songs?

I am not sure why this is not on-line at The Stright Dope home page, but The Master addressed this in More of the Straight Dope, 1988.

A quiz on page 362 (most chapters in the book end with quizzes):
= = = =
45. “Ring around the rosie/A pocket full of posies/Ashes, ashes/All fall down!” Authorities believe this seemingly innocuous bit of doggerel actually commemorates what grim event?
a. the Great Fire of London
b. the Black Death
c. the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre
d. nothing special
= = = =

The answer, provided on pages 478 and 479:

= = = =
45. D. Permit me to quote from The Annotated Mother Goose:
"As recently as November 1961, Mr. James Leasor was writiung in his book The Plague and the Fire that this rhyme ‘had its origin in [The Great Plague]. Rosy [roses] refers to the rosy rash of plague, . . . the posies were herbs and spices carried to sweeten the air; sneezing . . . was a common symptom of those close to death.’ And ‘We’ve all tumbled down’ was in a way exactly what happened.
“This is an interesting theory, but ‘If you consult The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes’ (as Charles Poore noted in his New York Times review of The Plague and the Fire ‘you will find, in place of corroboration, the somewhat frosty notation that: “The invariable sneezing and falling down in modern versions has given would-be origin finders the opportunity to say that the rhyme dates back to the Great Plague.”’ Actually–surprising in a rhyme that has become the accompaniment to one of our most popular nursery games–[‘Ring-around-the-rosy’] first appeared in print as late as 1881.”
By means of this triple-barreled quotation we learn that three out of four experts agree: the correct answer is D, the rhyme signifies nothing in particular. Some yo-yo, incidentally, had the nerve to call up and tell me the preceding supported the Black Death theory.
= = = =

So, the poem is rather recent, (in the context of a plague that occurred over 650 years ago), and scholarly references to nursery rhymes deny any connection between the poem and the disease.

Thread title edited to indicate subject.

General Questions Moderator

That song-plague connection is a myth, according to Snopes.

Back in 1975, the band Rush recorded a song called “Anthem”. The lyrics are some of Neil Peart’s most obviously Ayn Rand-inspired work:

“Well I know they always told you selfishness is wrong
Yet it was for me, not you, I came to write this song”

Check out Geddy Lee’s bass line behind the guitar solo:


Quite apropos to the lyrics.

Too bad, but I guess you had to do it. It was catchy and showed true spirit.

Perhaps the hed could’ve stayed as original in MPSIMS.

Good thinking.

Apropos of this, I heard once that the often heard “Air ball!” chant at basketball games is almost always an F-D (notes of the scale). I’ve never checked that out. But the other day, while watching a hockey game, the fans were heckling the goalie, chanting “How-ard,” and it was G-E, which puts it in a similar range, for sure. Wonder why that would be.

p.s. Go Hawks!!!

F-D isn’t just similar to G-E, it’s the exact same thing, unless sports fans all have perfect pitch.

As said above this is a myth.

We always sung:

Ring a ring o’ roses,
A pocket full of posies,
Atishoo atishoo,
All fall down.