Miss Lucy had a baby

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"Miss Lucy had a baby...", also known by various other names,[9] is an American schoolyard rhyme. Originally used as a jump-rope chant, it is now more often sung alone or as part of a clapping game. It has many variations, possibly originating from it, or from its predecessors.[10][11]

The song is often combined or confused with the similar but cruder "Miss Susie had a steamboat", which uses the same tune and was also used as a jump-rope game.


As in "Miss Susie", the rhyme is organized by its meter, an accentual verse, in trimeter.[10] Accentual verse allows for set number of accents regardless of the number of syllables in the verse. It is a common form in English folk verse, especially in nursery rhymes and jump-rope rhymes. The song shares much of the same melody as the 1937 "The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down" used by Warner Bros. as the theme to their Looney Tunes cartoons.[12][need quotation to verify]


A history of the Miss Suzie had a steamboat similar rhyme has been studied, tracing it back to the 1950s.[13] but several other books and articles show similar versions used as far back as the end of the 19th century.[14]

"Miss Lucy" probably developed from verses of much older (and cruder) songs, although the opposite may also be true,[15] most commonly known as "Bang Bang Rosie" in Britain, "Bang Away Lulu" in Appalachia,[14] and "My Lula Gal" in the West.[4][16] These songs were sometimes political, usually openly crude, and occasionally infanticidal.

In those songs, the baby, that was dropped in the chamber pot bathtub, was referencing an enormously popular mascot of Force cereal named Sunny Jim, introduced in the United States in 1902 and in Britain a few years later. Following his declining popularity, the baby is now usually encountered as Tiny Tim, once famous as a Depression-era comic strip and still well known as a character in Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol.[8] The verse was first recorded as a joke in the 1920s and as the modern children's song in New York in 1938.[4] Although the song derives from lyrics about an unwed whore, few children consider that Miss Lucy might be unmarried; instead, the concern of the song has shifted to the appearance of new siblings. The opening lines now often change to "My mother had a baby..." or "I had a little brother..."[8]

The variants including a woman with an alligator purse urging the baby's mother to vote have been seen as a reference to Susan B. Anthony, an American suffragette,[7] It was later attributed to a social worker[17] which was their typical dress code in the 1950s[18]

A version of the song appeared in Alfred Hitchcock's 1964 film Marnie, about a woman overcoming a childhood trauma. Although the ending seems closed, some argue the song serves to ironically establish that nothing ever was wrong with the title character.[19] It also appears in country singer Chely Wright's song "Alligator Purse" from her 1996 album Right in the Middle of It.

In the 1990s the singer Lucy Peach popularized a version of the song with the words "I had a little turtle, its name was Tiny Tim". Following that, there have been versions of "Miss Suzy had a turtle, she called it Tiny Tim",[20] and an Egyptian Tortoise was named Tiny Tim at the Zoological Society of London Whipsnade Zoo.[21]

Possible references to the song's characters, or sources for their names, are:[citation needed]


Several versions exist, varying across time and regionally:[8]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Hall, Kristin. "Miss Lucy". 2009. Accessed 14 Jan 2014.
  2. ^ a b c Huhn, Betsy. "Miss Susie Had a Baby" at "Jack Horntip Collection Field Recordings". 2013. Accessed 14 Jan 2014.
  3. ^ Col, Jeananda. "The Lady with the Alligator Purse" at Enchanted Learning. 2000. Accessed 14 Jan 2014.
  4. ^ a b c Opie, Iona & al. The Singing Game. Oxford Univ. Press (Oxford), 1985.
  5. ^ a b Opie, Iona. Recording C898/22. British Library, 1974. Accessed 14 Jan 2014.
  6. ^ Opie, Iona. Recording C898/02. British Library, 1975. Accessed 14 Jan 2014.
  7. ^ a b Hollihan, Kerrie. Rightfully Ours: How Women Won the Vote, p. 78. Chicago Review Press (Chicago), 2012. Accessed 13 Jan 2014.
  8. ^ a b c d e Bronner, Simon. Explaining Traditions: Folk Behavior in Modern Culture, pp. 217 ff. University Press of Kentucky (Lexington), 2011. Accessed 14 Jan 2014.
  9. ^ Including "Miss Lucy",[1] "Ms. Lucy",[2] "Ask Me No Questions",[2] "The Lady with the Alligator Purse",[3] "The Johnsons had a baby...",[4][5] and variations where the mother is named "Susie",[6] "Suzie",[2] "Lulu",[7] and "Virginia".[8]
  10. ^ a b Henninger, Jessie. "Miss Susie Had a Steamboat: I. Structure" at The Raveled Sleeve. 29 Nov 2008. Accessed 16 Jan 2014.
  11. ^ Henninger, Jessie. "Miss Susie Had a Steamboat: V. Versions of the Rhyme Used in This Essay" at The Raveled Sleeve. 29 Nov 2008. Accessed 12 Jan 2014.
  12. ^ Smith, Ronald. Comedy on Record: the Complete Critical Discography, p. 634. Garland Publishing, 1988.
  13. ^ On Children's rhymes and changing sexuality perception throughout time in Josepha Sherman's article on a publication of the American Folklore Society
  14. ^ a b Cray, Ed. The Erotic Muse: American Bawdy Songs 2nd ed., p. 173 ff. UIP (Champaign), 1999. Accessed 13 Jan 2014.
  15. ^ The Erotic Muse, p. 174. Cray explicitly postulates his hypothesis of the sources for this theme, and states that in the case of many other crude songs, they were a parody on even earlier 'clean' songs.
  16. ^ Logsdon, Guy. The Whorehouse Bells Are Ringing and Other Songs Cowboys Sing, pp. 154 ff. 1995 reprint of UIP (Champaign), 1989. Accessed 13 Jan 2014. (NB: Logsdon's versions are set to the separate tune of the bluegrass traditional "Roll in My Sweet Baby's Arms".)
  17. ^ About the Miss Lucy rhyme on a lecture at the Australian College of Social Work: "How not to appear as a social worker".
  18. ^ Take me to Connie Island, Miriam Packer, Guernica Editions, 1993, Page 35
  19. ^ Street, Sarah. "Hitchcockian Haberdashery" in Framing Hitchcock: Selected Essays from the Hitchcock Annual, p. 153. Wayne State University Press (Detroit), 2002. Accessed 14 Jan 2014.
  20. ^ Nursery rhymes (PDF, Early Childhood Development Center website)
  21. ^ Tiny Tim the tortoise has grape expectations (at zooborns.com website)
  22. ^ Miss Lucy Long introduction and song at the Midwest Banjo Camp's Faculty Concert (2011, YouTube)
  23. ^ Mahar, William J. (1999). Behind the Burnt Cork Mask: Early Blackface Minstrelsy and Antebellum American Popular Culture. Chicago: University of Illinois Press. Listed in Appendix C as the second most popular blackface song throughout the end of the 19th century.
  24. ^ or: his name was or: she named him
  25. ^ or: to teach him how to
  26. ^ or: and then when he was finished
  27. ^ or: he had bubbles in
  28. ^ a b or: the doctor
  29. ^ or: The nurse
  30. ^ a b c d e f or: walked
  31. ^ or: Measles
  32. ^ or: Mumps if the doctor said Measles
  33. ^ or: bubbles