Found a Peanut

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"Found a Peanut" is a traditional song, often considered a children's song, in the United States, Australia, Canada and Israel.[1][2][3] In Israel it is titled "I Swallowed a Peanut" (Balati Boten; בלעתי בוטן). It is popular to sing on long trips, as it has a very repetitive format which is easy to memorize, and can take a long time to sing. It is sung to the tune of "Oh My Darling, Clementine". It may often be sung around a camp fire.[4]

Basic lyrics[edit]

A basic version of the variable lyrics is:

Found a peanut, found a peanut, found a peanut just now.
just now I found a peanut, found a peanut just now.
Cracked it open, cracked it open, cracked it open right now
right now I cracked it open, cracked it open right now.
It was rotten, it was rotten, it was rotten just now,
just now it was rotten, it was rotten just now.

Then it continues with the same rhythm:

Ate it anyway
got a stomach ache
called the doctor
had an operation
he couldn't find it
said I wouldn't die
died anyway
went to heaven
got a job there
selling peanuts
but I dropped one
then I found it

and restarts from "Cracked it open".

The Israeli/Hebrew Version[edit]

I swallowed a peanut, I swallowed a peanut, I swallowed a peanut yesterday night
I swallowed a peanut, I swallowed a peanut, I swallowed a peanut yesterday night

Many variations[edit]

The simple repetitive structure of the song lends itself to near infinite variations. Sometimes "Just now" is substituted for "last night". Sometimes the verse will not reference the preceding verse as in the first example above.

Versions current in Baltimore in 1955 weren't quite as heavenly focused, and ended in: "Shoveling coal, shoveling coal, shoveling coal just now ..."

Another common variation on "last night" is "yesterday". This is used by "This Morning With Richard Not Judy" by Stewart Lee and Richard Herring.

Other substitutions include:

  • Other foods can also be used, such as an apple, for which the second line can be "it was wormy"
  • "green and mouldy" by "found it rotten" or "it was rotten".
  • "Wouldn't take me" by "Kicked an angel", "Punched St. Peter" or "Said a naughty word".
  • "Penicillin" by "Didn't Work"
  • "Operation" by "Cut Me Open" / "Took the Peanut Out" / "Sewed Me Up Again" / "Left The Scissors In" / "Cut Me Open Again".
  • "Didn't want me," by "Woke up," and
  • "It was a dream" by "Shoveling coal."

The Hebrew version sometimes introduces the verse: "Now I'm dead" (Akhshav ani met, עכשיו אני מת) before "I ascended to heaven". Sometimes "God" (Elohim, אלוהים), rather than "Gabriel" is used. Finally, sometimes before the recap either the verse: "So I answered him" (Az aniti lo, אז עניתי לו) or a single line: "So I answered him thus:" (Az aniti lo she-, -אז עניתי לו ש) is added.

Origins[edit]

Some attribute the song to Jack Schafer of Detroit, MI in 1958, although the song appears in the 1949 film A Letter to Three Wives. Those lyrics end at "Ate it anyway."

Other evidence, however, suggests that the song was widely known in the United States as early as the 1940s. A 1945 issue of the Florida Flambeau describes "Found a Peanut" as an "old song" from "high school days."[5] Likewise, the Norwalk Hour described a performance of the song in a school talent show in 1942.[6]

Appearance in popular culture[edit]

The 1949 film, A Letter to Three Wives.

The song appears memorably in a morbidly funny moment during the film Tromeo and Juliet, where a family in a car are singing the song before they get into an accident. In the following scene, the character Detective Scalus says, "They found a peanut, all right, a peanut of death!"

The song also appears at the opening of the opera, The Abduction of Figaro, by Peter Schickele (P.D.Q. Bach).

This Morning With Richard Not Judy by Stewart Lee and Richard Herring.

In Serial Mom, the 1994 American satirical comedy, Beverly Sutphin (played by Kathleen Turner) sings this song with her fellow prisoners as they ride on a bus en route to court.

A version appears on the 2009 Kid Congo and the Pink Monkey Birds album, "Dracula Boots".

References[edit]