My daughter taught me a clapping game from the school playground that goes “ Teacher, teacher over there, what colour is your underwear, is it black or is it white? O my gosh its dynamite.9,8,7,6 5,4,3,2,1 Schools out. There is another one that she sings is rather rude about school dinners and their purging effect “ I feel sick, toilet quick”
This is of course not a new tradition. And goes back and is certainly international with songs and games been collected globally. My mother in her 80s told me of the song that they sung in Stoke about Mrs Simpson and the Abdication crisis “ She been married twice before and now she’s knocking on Eddy’s door”. Or north country children on the grisly Dr Ruxton murders of 1936 “ Red stains on the carpet, red stains on the knife, Oh Dr Ruxton, You’ve murdered your wife”, they can be topical as well as subversive.
The subject has fascinated folklorists for a long time. Its over 50 years since the husband and wife team the Opies chronicled the unknown play and street songs of children in Britain. They attempted to counter the notion that in an age of television that the tradition had died. They also suggested that new songs could be passed on very quickly. The Opies proved the custom was still alive. I recall as a kid growing up in Stoke parodying Beatles’s songs “ Is there anything that you want? Fish and Chips would be the shouted reply. It’s good to see that the tradition still continues.
It is something that changes with the times and is thriving. Only last summer I saw a group of children near the Wellington in Leek act out a version of the X factor. Another group of children was judging a small girl on her singing ability. One of the children said, “I’ll be Simon”. The girl won through.
I can happily conclude that even with the demands on children’s time the street song and games still have power to poke fun at figures of authority and have relevance.