Counting rhymes

We learnt this Irish counting rhyme in class today:

Lúrabóg lárabóg
Ladhra buithe
Buíeán Eoghain
Eoghean an Phreabáin
Preabán suilí
Súilí saic

The first two words are made up nonsense words, the others mean something like, “yellow toes, Eoghain’s egg yolk, Jack-in-the-Box, ??, eyelets of a sack”.

There are quite a few other rhymes like this in Irish. Do any of you know them, or counting rhymes in other languages?

One I know in English is:

Eenie, meenie, minie, mo.
Catch a tigger by his toe.
If he squeals, let him go.
Eenie, meenie, minie, mo.

I haven’t seen it written down before and I’m sure there are different ways to spell the words, and different versions of this rhyme. A Latin version was discussed in class, but unfortunately I didn’t write it down.

There are various theories about the origin is rhymes like this, but as most of them have been passed on from generation to generation of children with each generation changing them, we cannot be sure where they originally came from.

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10 Responses to Counting rhymes

  1. Tomas says:

    Probably the most known counting rhyme in czech language goes like this:

    Ententýky, dva špalíky
    Čert vyleťel z elektriky
    Bez klobouku bos
    Natloukl si nos
    Boule byla veliká
    Jako celá Afrika

    Greetings from a Czech who lives in Sweden and currently studying finnish language ;-)

  2. Olof says:

    In Swedish we have many common ones, often for picking one thing from a group, like you point for each word.
    ”Ole dole doff, kinke lane toff, koffe lane, binke bane, ole dole doff” (nonsense words, Huey Duwey and Louie are ”Ole dole og doffen” in Norwegian if I recall correctly)

    Then we have like:
    ”Äppel päppel pirum parum, kråkan satt på tallekvist” etc. (Apple papple pirum parum, the crow sat on the pine branch)

    And ”Ärtan pärtan piff, Ärtan pärtan puff. Simelimaka kuckelikaka. Ärtan pärtan piff”

    These are the ones I can think of now.

  3. Vijay John says:

    There are apparently several versions of this; see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eeny,_meeny,_miny,_moe. The Danish, Persian, French, Hebrew, Dutch, and Japanese Wikipedias have articles on similar counting rhymes in their own languages; the Italian Wikipedia has two counting rhymes (based on the English one?) in two Italian dialects. (All other articles that the English one redirects to seem to refer solely to the English one).

    The French equivalent (see French Wikipedia) is “Am stram gram,” which one of my French teachers used to recite in exactly this order:

    Bour et bour et ratatam,
    Pic et pic et colégram,
    Am, stram, gram.

    (Until today, I wasn’t sure how any of those words were supposed to be spelled. Apparently, this is basically Frankish reinterpreted into French as nonsense!).

  4. Christopher says:

    We have a variety of these in the states “Engine engine number 9,” and “Your mother and my mother were hanging out the clothes” were my personal favorites, and “One potato two potato” was also common. These are all easily found online.

    But some people now consider “eenie meenie miney moe” to be offensive and racist, since the word “tiger” was once substituted with another word, especially in the South.

  5. Chris Miller says:

    I understand the general type of rhyme you’re talking about here, but I don’t understand exactly what you mean by “counting rhyme”. Do you mean rhymes that accompany counting/pointing gestures on the fingers or toes?

    Would something like this rhyme also be what you mean? (Where the first four verses accompany either touching or bending down one of the fingers or alternatively toes, and the last one is a surprise ending, where the adult starts on the last finger/toe, but runs their fingers quickly up the leg/arm, tickling the child.)

    “This little piggy went to market | This little piggy stayed home
    This little piggy had roastbeef | This little piggy had none
    And this little piggy went WEEE! WEEE! WEEE! all the way home!”

    Or do you include rhymes that illustrate each number in sequence? One example that comes to mind is an Italian counting song that asks “Cos’ è [n]?” ‘What is [n]?” and answers with something from Christian mythology that corresponds to that number.

  6. Simon says:

    Chris – these are the kinds of rhymes used by children for ‘counting out’ – with each word of the rhyme you point to a different child, and the child pointed to last is ‘out’. Or they can be used to choose who is ‘it’.

    I know there’s information about these kind of rhymes online, but I was wondering if any of you remembered the ones you used when you were children.

  7. Christopher says:

    Sorry, I meant “they can be found online” so I wouldn’t clog your blog unnecessarily with all the words. But these are the standard ones we would use.

  8. dreaminjosh says:

    I think I remember about 10 of these things from when I was little. People used to append whole stanzas to them to intentionally count themselves or someone else out. Usually, the added lines would start with “My mother told me to pick this one right over here…” or something like that.

    Here’s one I haven’t seen up:

    Bubblegum, bubblegum
    in a dish
    How many pieces

    do you wish?

  9. Froggie says:

    In French, on top of “Am strm gram”, I can think of:
    Trois petits cochons
    Pendus au plafond
    Tirez-leur la queue
    Ils tomberont
    Un, deux, trois
    Ça ne sera pas toi.
    or
    Une poule sur un mur
    Qui picote du pain dur
    Picoti picota
    Lève la queue et puis s’en va.

  10. The dutch version:

    Iene miene mutte
    Tien pond grutten
    Tien pond kaas
    Iene miene mutte is de baas.

    (eene meene mutte
    ten pounds of groats
    ten pounds of cheese
    eene meene mutte is the boss)