What Are Little Boys Made Of?

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
"What Are Little Boys Made Of?"
Roud #821
Written England
Published c. 1820
Form Nursery rhyme
Writer(s) Traditional
Language English

"What Are Little Boys Made Of?" is a popular nursery rhyme dating from the early 19th century. It has a Roud Folk Song Index number of 821.


Here is a representative modern version of the lyrics:

What are little boys made of?
What are little boys made of?
  Snips and snails
  And puppy-dogs' tails
That's what little boys are made of

What are little girls made of?
What are little girls made of?
  Sugar and spice
  And everything nice [or "all things nice"]
That's what little girls are made of[1]

The rhyme appears in many variant forms. For example, other versions may describe boys as being made of "snaps", "frogs",[2][3] "snakes",[4] or "slugs",[5] rather than "snips" as above.


In the earliest known versions, the first ingredient for boys is either "snips" or "snigs",[6] the latter being a Cumbrian dialect word for a small eel.

Natural History

The rhyme sometimes appears as part of a larger work called What Folks Are Made Of or What All the World Is Made Of. Other stanzas describe what babies, young men, young women, sailors, soldiers, nurses, fathers, mothers, old men, old women, and all folks are made of. According to Iona and Peter Opie, this first appears in a manuscript by the English poet Robert Southey (1774–1843), who added the stanzas other than the two below.[1] Though it is not mentioned elsewhere in his works or papers, it is generally agreed to be by him.[7]

The relevant section in the version attributed to Southey was:

What are little boys made of
What are little boys made of
Snips & snails & puppy dogs tails
And such are little boys made of.

What are young women made of
Sugar & spice & all things nice[1]

In popular culture[edit]

  • The line "sugar, spice and everything nice" has been interpreted in the song "Daddy's Little Girl", written by Robert Burke and Horace Gerlach and later recorded by The Mills Brothers in 1950.
  • In the second Peanuts comic strip, Patty can be seen reciting the rhyme as she walks past and hits Charlie Brown.
  • An extract from the nursery rhyme is used in a song "Sugar and Spice" by The Searchers, from 1963.
  • The line "Slime and snails or puppy dogs' tails" is used in David Bowie's song "Magic Dance" on the soundtrack of Labyrinth.
  • Sugar and Spice are the naughty and nice henchwenches of Two-Face in the 1995 movie Batman Forever.
  • In the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes, the tiger character Hobbes claims that tigers are made of "Dragonflies and katydids, but mostly chewed-up little kids." [8]
  • The nursery rhyme (particularly the line "sugar, spice and everything nice") served as an inspiration for the Cartoon Network series The Powerpuff Girls. Also in said show, Mojo Jojo gathers the snips and snails and a puppy-dog tail and flushes them down a toilet creating the Rowdyruff Boys.
  • Two male ponies in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic are named "Snips" and "Snails" inspired by the nursery rhyme.
  • Punk rock band Green Day mention the rhyme in the chorus of their song "King for a Day" about cross-dressing.
  • Alternative rock band Garbage incorporates the words in their song, "What Girls Are Made of," on the Deluxe edition of their 2012 studio album "Not your Kind of People".
  • "Sugar and spice, and all things nice" is a verse in the Stone Roses early single "Sally Cinnamon".
  • "That's What Little Girls Are Made Of" is a single by Raven-Symoné featuring rapper Missy Elliott.
  • "Sugar 'N Spikes" is a song by Captain Beefheart
  • At the start of the first episode from the anime kissxsis the rhyme is mentioned and also appears in later episodes
  • The Vocaloid vocal Otomachi Una's two Vocaloid 4 vocal libraries names of "Sugar" and "Spicy" are a reference to this nursery rhyme.
  • Bela Lugosi's strange lines in Ed Wood's Glen or Glenda seem to be a Freudian echo of this nursery rhyme: "Beware! Beware! Beware of the big, green dragon that sits on your doorstep! He eats little boys, puppy dog tails, and big, fat snails! Take care! Beware!"


  1. ^ a b c Opie, P.; Opie, I. (1997). The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (2nd ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 100–101. 
  2. ^ "Frankenstein's Chemistry". Punch. 61: 41. 29 July 1871. Retrieved 27 March 2010. 
  3. ^ Daubeny, Giles A. (November 1901). "A Snail Hunter; Cockchafers". Nature Notes: The Selborne Society's Magazine. 12: 215. Retrieved 27 March 2010. 
  4. ^ Wintemberg, W. J.; Wintemberg, Katherine H. (January–March 1918). "Folk-Lore from Grey County, Ontario". Journal of American Folk-Lore. 31: 83–124. Retrieved 27 March 2010. 
  5. ^ Griffin, Gerald (1827). Suil Dhuv, the Coiner. Saunders and Otley.  p. 449 of the 1842 edition.
  6. ^ Dance, Charles (1837). The Bengal Tiger: A Farce. 
  7. ^ Delamar, Gloria T. (2000). Mother Goose: From Nursery to Literature. IUniverse. pp. 175–7. ISBN 0-595-18577-0. 
  8. ^ http://www.gocomics.com/calvinandhobbes/1987/06/26