What Are Little Boys Made Of?

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"What Are Little Boys Made Of?"
Roud #821
Written by Traditional
Published c. 1820
Written England
Language English
Form Nursery rhyme

"What Are Little Boys Made Of?" is a popular nursery rhyme dating from the early 19th century. It has a Roud Folk Song Index number of 821.

Lyrics[edit]

Here is a representative modern version of the lyrics:

What are little boys made of?
What are little boys made of?
Snips and snails
And puppy-dogs' tails,
That's what little boys are made of.
What are little girls made of?
What are little girls made of?
Sugar and spice
And everything nice,
That's what little girls are made of.[1]

The rhyme appears in many variant forms. For example, other versions may describe boys as being made of "frogs",[2][3] "snakes",[4] or "slugs",[5] rather than "snips" as above.

Origins[edit]

In the earliest known versions, the first ingredient for boys is either "snips" or "snigs",[6] the latter being a Cumbrian dialect word for a small eel.

Sugar and Spice

The rhyme sometimes appears as part of a larger work called What Folks Are Made Of or What All the World Is Made Of. Other stanzas describe what babies, young men, young women, sailors, soldiers, nurses, fathers, mothers, old men, old women, and all folks are made of. According to Iona and Peter Opie, this first appears in a manuscript by the English poet Robert Southey (1774–1843), who added the stanzas other than the two below.[1] Though it is not mentioned elsewhere in his works or papers, it is generally agreed to be by him.[7]

The relevant section in the version attributed to Southey was:

What are little boys made of
What are little boys made of
Snips & snails & puppy dogs tails
And such are little boys made of.
What are young women made of
Sugar & spice & all things nice[1]

Trivia[edit]

An extract of the nursery rhyme was utilized in a song "Sugar and Spice" by The Searchers, from 1963.

Punk rock band Green Day mentioned the rhyme in the chorus of their song "King for a Day" about cross-dressing.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Opie, P.; Opie, I. (1997). The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (2nd ed.) (Oxford: Oxford University Press). pp. 100–1. 
  2. ^ "Frankenstein's Chemistry". Punch 61: 41. 29 July 29. Retrieved 27 March 2010.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  3. ^ Daubeny, Giles A. (November 1901). "A Snail Hunter; Cockchafers". Nature Notes: The Selborne Society's Magazine 12: 215. Retrieved 27 March 2010. 
  4. ^ Wintemberg, W. J.; Wintemberg, Katherine H. (January–March 1918). "Folk-Lore from Grey County, Ontario". Journal of American Folk-Lore 31: 83–124. Retrieved 27 March 2010. 
  5. ^ Griffin, Gerald (1827). Suil Dhuv, the Coiner. Saunders and Otley.  P. 449 of the 1842 edition.
  6. ^ Dance, Charles (1837). The Bengal Tiger: A Farce. 
  7. ^ Delamar, Gloria T. (2000). Mother Goose: From Nursery to Literature. IUniverse. pp. 175–7. ISBN 0-595-18577-0.