Mairzy Doats

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"Mairzy Doats"
Recorded 1943
Genre Novelty
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 was first played on radio station WOR, New York, by Al Trace and his Silly Symphonists. The song 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 song's refrain, as written on the sheet music, seems meaningless:

Mairzy doats and dozy doats and liddle lamzy divey
A kiddley divey too, wooden shoe

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."

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

Creation of the song[edit]

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.[2]

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."[3] (Cows eat wheat and sows eat wheat and little sharks eat oysters.)


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: [4]

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". [4]

Other recordings[edit]

In 1958, New Orleans R&B singer Tommy Ridgley released a rock and roll version of "Mairzy Doats" on the Herald Records label as a 7" 45 rpm single (number 526).

In 1963, an up-tempo rock and roll version of "Mairzy Doats" was also recorded by Carlo Mastrangelo of the Belmonts and released as a 7" record on Laurie Records the same year.

"Mairzy Doats" received a minor revival in 1967, when it was recorded by The Innocence, who took it to Number 75 on the Pop Top 100 on Kama Sutra Records.

Spike Jones was among several other artists who covered it, characteristically substituting sound effects for the "food" words.

In other media[edit]

  • It was featured several times on the BBC radio show I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue – most notably sung by Graeme Garden.
  • The song was used in movies by Stan Laurel (The Big Noise, 1944) and Woody Allen (Radio Days, 1987).
  • The song was in the 2000 horror film The Cell, when serial killer Carl Stargher, played by Vincent D'Onofrio, sang the song to himself while in the bathtub. (Other instances where the song's recitation emphasizes a character's mental dissolution include the TV serial Twin Peaks and the 1972 film The Ruling Class.)
  • A version of the song can be heard briefly in the James Garner 1965 World War II espionage film 36 Hours.
  • The song was also featured in the movie A Man Called Peter with Richard Todd as Peter Marshall (1955) a Scottish immigrant who became chaplain of the US Senate. He led a group of soldiers singing the song during a social at the historic church he pastored in Washington.
  • In the first episode of season two of the television series Twin Peaks, Leland Palmer, Laura's father, sings this song when he first appears with his hair turned stark white and a reformed outlook on life.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Smith, Kathleen E.R. God Bless America: Tin Pan Alley Goes to War. The University Press of Kentucky. p. 137. ISBN 0-8131-2256-2. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ 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. JSTOR 455617. doi:10.2307/455617. 
  4. ^ a b Opie, Iona; Opie, Peter (1997). The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 263. ISBN 978-0198600886. 

External links[edit]