What Are Little Boys Made Of?

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"What Are Little Boys Made Of?"
The Baby's Opera A book of old Rhymes and The Music by the Earliest Masters Book Cover 10.png
Natural History
Nursery rhyme
Publishedc. 1820

"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.

The author of the rhyme is uncertain, but may be English poet Robert Southey (1774–1843).


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.

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 little girls made of
Sugar & spice & all things nice[1]

In popular culture[edit]

Extracts from the nursery rhyme appear in several popular songs, including "Nothing Can Change This Love" by Sam Cooke from 1962 and "Sugar and Spice" by The Searchers, from 1963. "Sugar and spice, and all things nice" is also a verse in the Stone Roses early single "Sally Cinnamon". Van Halen in 1991 released the song "Poundcake," which contains part of the lyrics in the beginning of the music video. Alternative rock band Garbage incorporate the words of the rhyme in their song, "What Girls Are Made of," on the Deluxe edition of their 2012 studio album Not your Kind of People.

In October, 1966, a Star Trek: The Original Series episode titled What Are Little Girls Made Of? was released, describing the culmination of Nurse Chapel's search for her fiancée (Korby), and the discovery of his plans for conquest.[8]

The nursery rhyme's notion of the composition of girls was the inspiration behind the Cartoon Network original series The Powerpuff Girls, in which Professor Utonium creates the Powerpuff Girls by adding together sugar, spice, and everything nice (and Chemical X by mistake). In the same show, Mojo Jojo gathers the snips and snails and a puppy-dog tail and flushes them down a toilet to create the Rowdyruff Boys. It also inspired the Sophie comic series, in which a young girl, Sophie Karamazout, is created in the laboratory by Mr. Karamazout.[9]

In the 1986 film Labyrinth, Goblin King Jareth sings a song that mentions "slime and snails, puppy dog tails."

In animated television series My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, there are two ponies called Snips and Snails who are close friends.

In the Ed Wood film "Glen or Glenda" (regarded as one of the worst films ever made) the famous line (performed later by the Academy Award winning actor Martin Landau in the biopic film "Ed Wood" by acclaimed director/producer Tim Burton) appears: "Beware...beware! Beware of the big green dragon that sits on your doorstep. He eats little boys...puppy dog tails, and big, fat snails. Beware, take care....beware!"

See also[edit]

List of folk songs by Roud number


  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. ^ DeCandido, Keith (2015-05-12). "Star Trek The Original Series Rewatch: "What Are Little Girls Made Of?"". Tor.com. Retrieved 2018-02-28.
  9. ^ "1968, Belgian comics: "Sophie"". Avengers in Time.