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Friday, July 18, 2014

What Happens on the Playground Stays on the Playground by Andrea Perry

Are any of you familiar with Iona and Peter Opie's The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren?
Taken directly from the oral tradition of British schoolchildren, 5000(!) of them during the 1950's, the Opies compiled a unique anthology of children's games, punishments, wishes, beliefs, and regulation.  From 70 varied schools in cities as well as remote rural areas, Iona and Peter worked independently with no grants, no funding, and no publishing advances to provide an amazing view of the "unadulterated" lore of the schoolchild.  This encyclopedic text is exhaustively indexed by general category, contributing schools, geography, and first lines. I have had this book for months and still am only about a quarter of the way through it, delighting in every detail.
The chapters of the book include  Riddles, Topical Rhymes, Nicknames and Epithets, Children's Calendar, Pranks, and Unpopular Children: Jeers and Torments to  name but a few.
Though nursery rhymes pass from mother to child, school rhymes circulate from child to child and are not intended for adult ears.. All of the rhymes were generated by and for children only.  I doubt there is anyone who would read this treasure and not recognize something:

In Pranks:  Bell Ringing
"Me don't know, me can't tell,
 Me press a button and run like hell"

Children's Calendar:  Pancake Day ( Shrove Tuesday)
"Tippety, tippety tin
 Give me a pancake and I will come in
 Tippety tippety toe
 Give me a pancake and I will go"

Nicknames and Epithets:  School Food
"Say what you will,
 school dinners make you ill
 And Shepherd's Pie
 Makes Davy Crockett cry:
 All school din-dins
 come from pigs' bins
    -that's no lie"

 Unpopulare Children: Lament
"Nobody loves me
 everybody hates me,
 Going in the garden to eat worms.
 Big fat juicy ones
  little squiggly, niggly ones
 going in the garden to eat worms."

Skipping Rope Rhynes:
"I like coffee
 I like tea
 I like radio and tv"

"Marilyn Monroe
 Fell in the snow
 Her skirt blew up
 and the boy said, "Oh!"

Though the topics and terminology have changed with the times, there is much here that we all remember.  As a matter of fact, some of the rhymes used for counting-out or skipping are practically identical to rhymes known 130 years ago. 
Even if you are not a hopeless rhymeaholic like I am, you will find something to love in this encyclopedia of childhood.
I will leave you with a favorite tongue twister:

"A woman to her son did utter
  Go, my son, and shut the shutter
  The shutter's shut, the son did utter
  I cannot shut it any shutter."

Submitted by Andrea Perry

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