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Selection Rhymes

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Selection rhymes are an important part of childhood. If a game is being set up and nobody wants to volunteer for a particular part or position, then a selection rhyme is used to choose the unfortunate individual.

All rhymes begin with the players in a circle. Then one of them, the singer, begins the rhyme and points around to the left or to the right, counting once for each beat of the rhyme. At the end of each iteration of the rhyme, the person, or hand, corresponding to the last beat is taken out. Sometimes people are counted, and sometimes each person's hands, so that you are only safe once both hands have been removed from the circle. The sequence is repeated until there is only one person left.

A new rhyme is a powerful weapon, increasing your social standing, and preventing seasoned players from knowing or working out the number of beats to either make them safe, or to place them in power, depending on the game. You can change the rhyme by adding new lines towards the end.

Eenie Meenie

First used in the 18th Century, this is the most popular selection rhyme. However, this version is from the late 20th Century:

Eenie meenie miney moe,
Catch a tiger by the toe,
If he squeals, let him go,
Eenie meenie miney moe,

Apparently, the 'eenie meenie' part of the rhyme originates in an ancient counting system which is still used by fishermen and shepherds in England.

'Eenie meenie' exists in various versions differing from region to region. Here are a few:

Eenie meenie macaraca
Rare raa dominaca
Knikerbocka lollypoppa
Om pom push


Eenie, Meenie, Cicilinee
Oh- Oh- Ah- Baleenie
Ochy, Crochy, Liberace
I love you

Eena Meena

In Anne MacCaffery's book The Crystal Singer, the main character Killashandra uses the following rhyme to choose one from a number of canyons:

Eena meena pitsa teena
Avoo bumbareena
Ova goasha bumbarosha
Nineteen hundred and one

One Potato, Two Potato...

Both of each players' hands are normally counted in this rhyme:

One potato, two potato
Three potato, four
Five potato, six potato
Seven potato, more

This rhyme also provided the basis for the theme tune of the 1970s American children's programme The Banana Splits.

Ingle Angle

This is popular in Northern Ireland:

Ingle angle, silver bangle
Ingle angle, oooooooh
Ingle angle, silver bangle
Out goes you

Ip Dip

A timeless classic in which feet can be used instead of hands:

Ip dip dog sh*t
You are not it

Another favourite variation of this rhyme is:

Ip dip dip
My blue ship
Sailing on the gravy
Like the Royal Navy
O, U, T spells out

Roy Harper also used part of the following rhyme to choose between songs being shouted out by the audience, on his Flashes From The Archives of Oblivion album:

Ip dip dip
My blue ship
Sailing on the water
Like a cup and saucer
My Mum says count up to ten
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten

Ip Idip Idation

This is a more complicated rhyme with a break in the middle and originated in British Forces schools. The person chosen by the first half of the song then picks a number, quickly. This is then counted round to finish the tune off:

Ip idip idation
My operation
How many people at the station?

My Mother, Your Mother

Each player puts a hand in and 'Thomas the Rhymer' (the person who recites the rhyme) counts it out, each word marked by a slap on the hand. The question at the end is answered by the player who's hand was slapped on 'blood'. The chosen colour is then spelled out:

My mother and your mother went down to the store
When my mother punched your mother right in the nose
What colour was the blood?

Answer - GREEN

G, R, E, E, N spells green
So you are 'it'

One, Two

This is a nicely converted nursery rhyme to pick out a victim:

One, two, buckle my shoe
Three, four, knock on the door
Five, six, pick up sticks
Seven, eight, lay them straight
Nine, ten, do it again!

If you're in a hurry, you can stop at 'pick up sticks'.

Rich Man, Poor Man

This can be used in two ways. Girls use it while skipping to select the man they will marry, everyone else uses it as a selection rhyme:

Rich man, poor man
Beggar man, thief
Doctor, lawyer
Indian Chief

Bubblegum, Bubblegum

This rhyme is another split rhyme. The person chosen by the rhyme would quickly pick a number and that would be counted off. The player at the end of the count was then dismissed from selection:

Bubblegum, bubblegum
Tastes so sweet
How many pieces
Can you eat?

Bottle of Ink

As in 'My Mother, Your Mother', the player chosen by the first half chooses a colour, which is then spelled out:

A bottle of Ink
Fell down the sink
What colour was it?

Answer - RED

R, E, D
And you are not it

Racing Car, Number Nine

The player chosen by the first half of this rhyme picks a number, which is then counted off:

Racing car, number nine
Losing petrol all the time
How many gallons did he lose?

Ibble Obble

Another rhyme where the player who receives the last beat is out:

Ibble obble black bobble
Ibble obble out
Turn a dirty dishcloth inside out
Once if it's dirty
Twice if it's clean
Ibble obble black bobble
You are out

There's a Party on the Hill

The person picked by the first line then gives the response, moving the count on:

There's a party on the hill, can you come?
- Yes.
Bring your own bread and butter and a bun.
- Can't afford it.
Who is your best friend?
- Thomas1
Thomas will be there, with his knickers in the air.
O, U, T spells OUT.
1Or the name of another player.

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