Do Your Ears Hang Low?

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"Do Your Ears Hang Low?"
Roud 15472
Language English
Recorded by Barney, Kinky Friedman

"Do Your Ears Hang Low?" is a children's song that is often sung in schools and at camps. The melody of this song was partially taken from another: "Turkey in the Straw." Various theories exist concerning the origin of the lyrics, but no conclusive evidence seems to exist. A common belief is that the lyrics refer to the ears of a hound dog. It is most likely that this was a crude wartime soldiers' song that, in sanitized form, has made its way into other circles.

History[edit]

The origins of the song are obscure. Variant versions with obscene lyrics exist, notably "Do Your Balls Hang Low?"[1][2] and "Do Your Boobs Hang Low?". Although these have sometimes been regarded as parody versions of the campfire song,[3] it is more likely that the obscene versions came first, and that "Do Your Ears Hang Low?" is a sanitized version.

Certainly "Do Your Balls Hang Low?" is known to have been sung by British soldiers on the Western Front during the First World War.[4] Lyn MacDonald reports that, on one occasion in 1916, General Douglas Haig heard the song being sung by a column of soldiers as they marched past on their way to the Somme. He immediately called for his horse and rode to the head of the column to remonstrate with the battalion commander, only to find the Colonel singing as heartily as his men. Haig congratulated him on his fine voice, but added: "I like the tune, but you must know that that in any circumstances those words are inexcusable!"[5]

The tune is frequently heard being played on ice cream van PA speakers in America.

Lyrics[edit]

The following lyrics are from one particular variant of the song:

Do your ears hang low?
Do they wobble to and fro?
Can you tie 'em in a knot?
Can you tie 'em in a bow?
Can you throw 'em o'er your shoulder
Like a continental [or regimental] soldier
Do your ears hang low?

Do your ears stand high?
Do they reach up to the sky?
Do they droop when they are wet?
Do they stiffen when they're dry?
Can you summon o'er your neighbor
With a minimum of labor?
Do your ears stand high?

Do your ears flip-flop?
Can you use them as a mop?
Are they stringy at the bottom?
Are they curly at the top?
Can you use them for a swatter?
Can you use them for a blotter?
Do your ears flip-flop?

Do your ears stick out?
Can you waggle them about?
Can you flap them up and down
As you fly around the town?
Can you shut them up for sure
When you hear an awful bore?
Do your ears stick out?

Do your ears give snacks?
Are they all filled up with wax?
Do you eat it in the morning
Do you eat it in the bath?
Do you eat it with a scone
Or do you eat it on its own?
Do your ears give snacks?

In the United Kingdom, a shorter version with differences in the lyrics is heard, commonly sung in Cubs and Brownies events:

Do your ears hang low?
Can you swing them to and fro?
Can you tie them in a knot?
Can you tie them in a bow?
Can you swing them over your shoulder like a regimental soldier
Do your ears hang low?"

(With a humorous glissando at a perfect fourth down, and back up again on the final "low".)

Soldiers' version[edit]

The lyrics of the World War I version of "Do Your Balls Hang Low?" are recorded as:[6]

Do your balls hang low?
Do they dangle to and fro?
Can you tie them in a knot?
Can you tie them in a bow?

Do they itch when it's hot?
Do you rest them in a pot?

Do you get them in a tangle?
Do you catch them in a mangle?
Do they swing in stormy weather?
Do they tickle with a feather?

Do they rattle when you walk?
Do they jingle when you talk?

Can you sling them on your shoulder
Like a lousy fucking soldier?
Do your balls hang low?

Recorded versions[edit]

  • Sharon, Lois & Bram on Stay Tuned (album) 1987
  • Barney on Barney's Favorites 1993, Barney's Greatest Hits 2000
  • Kinky Friedman on Live From Uranus 2003
  • Øystein Sunde in a Norwegian variant called Hvis dine ører henger ned (If your ears hang down) on Det året det var så bratt 1971
  • A version of the song was recorded for the Kidsongs video "A Day with the Animals" in 1986, and is often thought to be referring to a basset hound (as the music video featured such). The song was later released for the home video market and in music CD format.
  • A version was used on the Play School album There's A Bear In There.
  • A Hip Hop version of the melody is used in the Jibbs' song "Chain Hang Low".

References[edit]

  1. ^ Roud number 10259.
  2. ^ Drinking songs
  3. ^ Dundes, Alan (1997). From Game to War and Other Psychoanalytic Essays on Folklore. University Press of Kentucky. 
  4. ^ Arthur, Max (2001). When this Bloody War is Over: soldiers' songs of the First World War. London: Judy Piatkus. p. 89. ISBN 0-7499-2252-4. 
  5. ^ MacDonald, Lyn (1983). Somme. London: Michael Joseph. pp. 200–203. ISBN 0718122542. 
  6. ^ Arthur 2001, p. 89.

External links[edit]