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History of "eeny meeny"

Posted by R. Berg on February 22, 2002

In Reply to: Same here, with differences posted by R. Berg on February 22, 2002

: : : hello all~

: : : i'm not sure if I spelled it correctly but I was wondering if anybody knows the origination of eeney meeney miney moe or knows of a different version than:

: : : eeney meeney miney moe
: : : catch a tiger by its toe
: : : if he hollers let him go
: : : eeney meeney miney moe

: : : thanks!
: : : nici

: : The version of "eeny, meeny, miny, moe" that was current in playgrounds when I was a child (1960's Britain), replaced the word "tiger" with "nigger". This is of course totally unacceptable by today's standards, given the massively pejorative and racist overtones that the word has gained over the ensuing years. At the time, however, it was used in total innocence.

: The "n____" version was current among U.S. children in the 1950s. As I understand it, the word hasn't gained racist overtones since then: it had them all the time. No, that's not strong enough. Not just overtones. The whole meaning of the word was just plain racist. What has changed is people's sensibilities about racism--including the words that help to perpetuate it. (In the U.S., we had a civil rights movement that got national attention inthe 1960s, followed by other changes in the culture.)
: There were more lyrics. The next verse started "If he hollers (or another verb here?), make him pay / Fifty dollars every day." I don't remember the rest. It might be in a book I don't have, Iona and Peter Opie, "The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren."

Try the link below (http://instruct.uwo.ca/english/133e-scor/nr.html). That page says the chant, in some form, may go back to Druidic sacrifices of children. Another site I found says the old British version had "catch a tinker" and the "n____" version may date only to the beginning of World War II, when GIs arrived in England.