Skipping-rope rhyme

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A skipping rhyme (occasionally skipping-rope rhyme or jump-rope rhyme), is a rhyme chanted by children while skipping. Such rhymes have been recorded in all cultures where skipping is played. Examples of English-language rhymes have been found going back to at least the 17th century. Like most folklore, skipping rhymes tend to be found in many different variations.

Rhymes from the 1940s[edit]

The following are rhymes from West Los Angeles, California.

Two girls with a long rope stood about 12 feet (3.7 m) apart and turned the rope as other children took turns jumping. If one were not a good jumper, one would be an 'Ever-Laster,' that is, one would perpetually turn the rope. When it was a child's turn to jump, she would enter as the rope turned, and jump to the rhyme until she missed. Then she would become a rope-turner, and the next child in line would take her place.[citation needed]

1.:Charlie Chaplin went to France

To teach the ladies how to dance.
First the heel, then the toe,
Then the splits, and around you go!
Salute to the Captain,
Bow to the Queen,
And turn your back on the Nazi submarine!

In the Charlie Chaplin rhyme, the child jumping had to follow directions as the rope was turning: touching the heel of one foot on the ground; touching the toe of the same foot on the ground; doing a (short) split of the feet, turning around, saluting, bowing, and jumping out from the turning rope on the last line. This rhyme, c. 1942, reflects children's awareness of World War II (The Queen to whom we bowed was the mother of the present Queen of England).[citation needed]

An Australian version of the Charlie Chaplin Skipping Song, as sung at Salisbury Primary School in Brisbane, Australia in the mid 1950s, is as follows:

Charlie Chaplin went to France,
To teach the ladies how to dance,
First he did the Rumba,
Then he did the twist,
Then he did the Highland Fling,
And then he did the splits.

There's also "Betty Grable went to France,/To teach the soldiers how to dance." (The rest is the same.)[citation needed]

2.:All in together, birds of a feather:

January, February, March, April, May, etc. (each child had to jump in during the month they were born).

3.:Ice cream soda, Delaware Punch,

Tell me the name of my honey-bunch.
A, B, C, etc.
. . . And don't forget the RED HOT PEPPERS (and the turners would turn the rope as fast as they could).[citation needed]

In Dublin, Ireland, the visits of inspectors known as "Glimmer men" to private houses to enforce regulations to prevent the use of coal gas in restricted hours during the Emergency gave rise to:[1]

Keep it boiling on the glimmer, if you don't you get no dinner.

Counting rhymes[edit]

Some rhymes are intended to count the number of jumps the skipper takes without stumbling. These rhymes can take very simple forms.

This chant was collected in London in the 1950s:

Big Ben strikes one,[citation needed]
Big Ben strikes two,
Big Ben strikes three,


Applesauce, mustard, cider[2]
How many legs has a spider?
one, two, three, etc.

Mature twists[edit]

Another rhyme with a definite twist.

Had a little sports car, two-forty-eight,
Ran around the cor-(skipper jumps out, and turners continue the syllable until they reenter)-ner
and slammed on the brakes, but the brakes didn't work,
So I bumped into a lady who bumped into a man,
Who bumped into a police car, man, oh man!
Policeman caught me and put me in jail,
All I had was ginger ale
How many bottles did I drink?
10! 20! 30! 40!
Butterfly, butterfly: turn around. [jumper turns while jumping][3]
Butterfly, butterfly: touch the ground [jumper touches the ground as she is jumping]
Butterfly, butterfly: show your shoe. [..thrusts out her shoe]
Butterfly, butterfly: [n] to do.
One, two, three, ... [up to the count of n, which increases by 1 with each set of jumpers]
Had a little car car,
Ran around the cor-(skipper jumps out, and turners continue the syllable until they reenter)-ner
and slammed on the brakes, but the brakes didn't work,
So I bumped into a lady who bumped into a man,
Who bumped into a police car, man, oh man!
Policeman caught me
Put me on his knee,
Asked me a question
Will you marry me?
Yes, No, Maybe So (repeated)

Another skipping rhyme, but is more modern. Once the alphabet finishes, kids continue with numbers until skipper catches rope. It is natural for kids to use the letter that the skipper lost on and to use it to find someone's name following the rule of either best friend or boyfriend, depending on what is chosen in the beginning.

Ice cream, Soda pop, cherry on top,
Who's your best friend, let's find out;
Goes A! B! C!


Ice cream soda, cherry on top
Who's your boyfriend/girlfriend, I forgot;
Is it an A! B! C!


Ice cream sundae, banana split
[Name of jumper]'s got a boyfriend/girlfriend,
Who is it?
A! B! C!

Skipping rhymes don't always have to be rhymes, however. They can be games, such as a game called, "School." In "Kindergarten" (the first round), all skippers must run through rope without skipping. In "First Grade", all skippers must skip in, skip once, and skip out without getting caught in the rope, and so on. Also, there is "Mouse Trap", where there is a special pattern, and players must run through rope without getting caught. If caught, the jumper caught must hold the rope.

Speed rhymes[edit]

Some rhymes are intended to test the agility of the jumper by turning the rope more rapidly. The key word to start turning fast is often "pepper" to indicate speed, such as:

Mable, Mable,
Set the table,
Don't forget the salt,
Pepper! (rapid turning follows)[3][4]

International rhymes[edit]

Canadian circa 1960s:

I See London I See France[edit]

I see London, I see France, I see (name)'s underpants, Not too big, not too small, Just the size of Montreal!

Pretty Little Dutch Girl[edit]

"Pretty Little Dutch Girl" is an example of an international rhyme. If one sings it, it is generally sung to the tune of "A Sailor Went to Sea".


Cinderella dressed in yellow, went upstairs (or downstairs) to kiss her fellow, by mistake kissed a snake, how many doctors will it take? 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 etc. (Go to 20 then go down to the next line)
Cinderella dressed in blue, went upstairs to tie her shoe, made a mistake and tied a knot, how many knots will she make? 1, 2, 3, etc.
Cinderella dressed in green, went downtown to buy a ring, made a mistake and bought a fake, how many days before it breaks? 1, 2, 3, etc.
Cinderella dressed in lace, went upstairs to fix her face, oh no oh no, she found a blemish, how many powder puffs till she's finished? 1, 2, 3, etc.
Cinderella dressed in silk, went outside to get some milk, made a mistake and fell in the lake, how many more till she gets a break? 1, 2, 3, etc.

The counting continues as long as the jumper avoids missing a jump. If they do then the counting starts again.:[5]

Historical rhymes[edit]

Other rhymes are highly topical, and sometimes survive long after the events that inspired them have disappeared from the headlines. Perhaps the most notorious rhyme of this type is one that began circulating during the 1892 trial of Lizzie Borden. Despite Lizzie's desire to stay out of the public eye, children would follow her around and chant the rhyme. It later started being used as a rhyme used when skipping-rope:

Lizzie Borden took an axe
She gave her mother forty whacks,
After she saw what she had done,
She gave her father forty-one.
Lizzie Borden got away,
For her crime she did not pay. [6]

Variations of this following rhyme, a wordplay on "influenza," were heard around the time of the 1918 flu pandemic:

I had a little bird,
And its name was Enza.
I opened the window
And in-flew-enza.[7][8]

This one from Prohibition:[citation needed]

No, I won't go to Casey's any more, more, more,
There's a big fat policeman by the door, door, door.
He grabs you by the collar,
And makes you pay a dollar.
No, I won't go to Casey's any more.

Offensive rhymes[edit]

Sometimes, rhymes have been known to offend people of different race and nationalities:

My parents have pretty eyes[citation needed]
My mother's Chinese
My father's Japanese
My brother's Taiwanese
My sister's Vietnamese

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Reid, L.M. (2010). "Remembering Rationing and Bombs during World War Two in Dublin Ireland" Check |url= scheme (help). Hubpages. Retrieved 2011-03-18. Yes we had a rhyme we sang when we played skipping out in the street. It was about the gas rationing and the glimmer. 
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ a b [2]
  4. ^ [3]
  5. ^ The British Library. "Skipping games - Cinderella, dressed in yellow". Playtimes. The British Library. Retrieved 3 September 2012. 
  6. ^ Tucker, Elizabeth (September 30, 2008). Children's Folklore: A Handbook. Greenwood Folklore Handbooks. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 59. ISBN 978-0313341892. 
  7. ^ Lynch, Eileen A. (November–December 1998). "The Flu of 1918". The Pennsylvania Gazette. University of Pennsylvania. 
  8. ^ March, Peyton C. (September 4, 1932). "General March's Narrative: Glimpses of Woodrow Wilson". The New York Times. p. XX3, Special Features section. 

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