Do Your Ears Hang Low?

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"Do Your Ears Hang Low?" (Roud 15472) is a children's song that is often sung in schools, at camps and at birthday parties. The melody is usually a shorter version of "Turkey in the Straw", but it can also be sung to the tune of the "Sailor's Hornpipe",[1] or "The Parade of the Wooden Soldiers".[2] A common belief is that the lyrics refer to the long ears of a hound. It appears considerably more likely, however, that the song originated as the obscene "Do Your Balls Hang Low?", and was later sanitized.

History[edit]

The origin of the song is most likely George Washington Dixon's "Zip Coon", a racist ditty penned in 1838 and later adapted to the less offensive "Turkey in the Straw". Variant versions with obscene lyrics include "Do Your Balls Hang Low?"[3][4] and "Do Your Boobs Hang Low?" These have sometimes been regarded as parody versions of the campfire song,[5] but the evidence strongly suggests that "Do Your Balls Hang Low?" came first, and that "Do Your Ears Hang Low?" is a sanitized version.[2]

The earliest apparent report of "Do Your Balls Hang Low?" is said to date from about 1900.[2] Certainly the song is known to have been sung by British soldiers on the Western Front during the First World War.[6] Lyn MacDonald reports that, on one occasion in 1916, General Douglas Haig heard it 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 in any circumstances those words are inexcusable!"[7]

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 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 wave them at your neighbor
With an element of flavor?
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?

Do your ears fall off?
Do they dangle when you cough?
Can you juggle them for fun?
And put them back when you are done?
Can you do some origami?
Can you chew them like salami?
Do your ears fall off?

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?

Southeastern Pennsylvania schoolboys' version[edit]

This version was popular in elementary schools in suburban Philadelphia and the surrounding area in the late 1970s and beyond:[citation needed]

Do your balls hang low?
Can you drag 'em in the snow?
Can you tie 'em in a knot?
Can you tie 'em in a bow?
Can you toss 'em o'er your shoulder
Like an es-ki-mo? (Alternate: Like a continental soldier?)
Don't feel bad if your balls hang low!

Recorded versions[edit]

  • Sharon, Lois & Bram on Stay Tuned 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 Swedish version was recorded by Mora Träsk, called Hänger öronen på dig ner (Do your ears hang down?), in 1980
  • 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".
  • A parody of the song was used on the Finding Dory sound button book called "Swim Along with Me" in 2016, titled "Do Your Fins Move Fast?" that does not use "can you" phrases and it all has to do with swimming. It is not being sung by but it plays instrumental to the song. It was made from the sound book company Play-a-Sound.
  • The vocal melody of this song is used in verses of "みんながみんな英雄" by JPop artist AI.
  • Griffin and Justin McElroy sang made-up lyrics to the song advertising an ice cream truck and the fictional ice cream flavor "brown" on the podcast My Brother, My Brother and Me
  • Does your hair hang low? Version sung in the classic movie 'Easy Rider'

References[edit]

  1. ^ Wikiquote:Bottom (TV series)
  2. ^ a b c Cray, Ed (1992). The Erotic Muse: American Bawdy Songs (2nd ed.). Urbana: University of Illinois Press. pp. 336–38. ISBN 9780252017810.
  3. ^ Roud number 10259.
  4. ^ Drinking songs
  5. ^ Dundes, Alan (1997). From Game to War and Other Psychoanalytic Essays on Folklore. University Press of Kentucky.
  6. ^ a b 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.
  7. ^ MacDonald, Lyn (1983). Somme. London: Michael Joseph. pp. 200–203. ISBN 0718122542.

External links[edit]