Mairzy Doats

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"Mairzy Doats"
Published1943 by Miller Music Publishing Co.
Songwriter(s)Milton Drake
Al Hoffman
Jerry Livingston
Composer(s)Milton Drake, Al Hoffman, Jerry Livingston

“Mairzy Doats” is a novelty song written and composed in 1943 by Milton Drake, Al Hoffman, and Jerry Livingston. It contains lyrics that make no sense as written, but are near homophones of meaningful phrases. The song's title, for example, is a homophone of "Mares eat oats".

The song was first played on radio station WOR, New York, by Al Trace and his Silly Symphonists. It made the pop charts several times, with a version by the Merry Macs reaching No. 1 in March 1944. The song was also a number-one sheet music seller, with sales of over 450,000 within the first three weeks of release.[1] The Merry Macs recording was Decca Records' best-selling release in 1944.[2] Twenty-three other performers followed up with their own recordings in a span of only two weeks that year.[3]


The song's refrain, as written on the sheet music, seems meaningless:

Mairzy doats and dozy doats and liddle lamzy divey
A kiddley divey too, wouldn't you?[4]

However, the lyrics of the bridge provide a clue:

If the words sound queer and funny to your ear, a little bit jumbled and jivey,
Sing "Mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy."[4]

This hint allows the ear to translate the final line as "a kid'll eat ivy, too; wouldn't you?"[5]

Milton Drake, one of the writers, said the song had been based on an English nursery rhyme. According to this story, Drake's four-year-old daughter came home singing, "Cowzy tweet and sowzy tweet and liddle sharksy doisters."[6] (Cows eat wheat and sows eat wheat and little sharks eat oysters.)

Drake joined Hoffman and Livingston to come up with a tune for the new version of the rhyme, but for a year no one was willing to publish a "silly song". Finally, Hoffman pitched it to his friend Al Trace, bandleader of the Silly Symphonists. Trace liked the song and recorded it. It became a huge hit, most notably with the Merry Macs' 1944 recording.[7]


The scholars Iona and Peter Opie have noted that the last two lines of the song appear in an old catch which, when said quickly, appears to be in Latin:[8]

In fir tar is,
In oak none is,
In mud eels are,
In clay none are,
Goat eat ivy,
Mare eat oats.

They trace the origin of the joke to a manuscript of about 1450 which has "Is gote eate yvy? Mare eate ootys".[8]

Other recordings and performances[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Smith, Kathleen E. R. (28 March 2003). God Bless America: Tin Pan Alley Goes to War. The University Press of Kentucky. p. 137. ISBN 0-8131-2256-2.
  2. ^ Popular Music, 1920–1979: A Revised Cumulation, Volume 2, , Nat Shapiro & Bruce Pollock;, Gale Research Company, 1985, ISBN 0810308479; page 190
  3. ^ Simon, 1981, page 190, referenced in JStore Randall, Dale B. J. preview
  4. ^ a b Drake, Milton; Hoffman, Al; Livingston, Jerry (1943). Mairzy doats. New York: Miller Music Corporation. OCLC 876125772. Archived from the original on 2018-07-26. Retrieved 2018-01-04.
  5. ^ Brown, Adam (2014). Pronunciation and phonetics : a practical guide for English language teachers. New York. p. 110. ISBN 978-1-315-85809-8. OCLC 878144737.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  6. ^ Randall, Dale B. J. (1995). "American "Mairzy" Dottiness, Sir John Fastolf's Secretary, and the "Law French" of a Caroline Cavalier". American Speech. Duke University Press. 70 (4): 361–370. doi:10.2307/455617. JSTOR 455617.
  7. ^ "The Merry Macs". Discogs.
  8. ^ a b Opie, Iona; Opie, Peter (1997). The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 263. ISBN 978-0198600886.
  9. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: "Troops of Santa Ana Base Entertained By Hope And Crosby 220475-50 | Footage Farm". YouTube.
  10. ^ Jones, Spike. "Mairzy Doats – Spike Jones". YouTube. p. 1960 Capitol Records. Archived from the original on 2021-12-21.
  11. ^ "Limited Re-release of a Walt Disney Records album from 1964". Amazon.
  12. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2013). Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles, 14th Edition: 1955–2012. Record Research. p. 855.

External links[edit]