Counting Out
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By Dan Beard

Counting Out Rhymes

The full-grown man who hears the once familiar words, or rather articulate sounds, of " On-ery, ore-ry, ick-ery, Ann!" without a pleased smile o'er-spreading his face, is a man devoid of sentiment, or a man with no fond memories of his own boyhood days.

For untold centuries the boys have handed the strange, whimsical rhymes down to their younger playmates with only slight variations. "On-ery, ore-ry" is sometimes one-ry, two-ery," etc., but the author has made diligent inquiry among his young acquaintances and has been unable to find more than one or two verses that were not familiar to him in his own childhood.

After consulting the rhymes contributed by H. Cartington Bolton, of Trinity College, to the Boston Journal of Education ; these published in the New York Mail and Express of May 9, 1885 ; a collection in the Journal of Ammerican Folk-Lore, and a collection by William Wells Newell, in his interesting book of "Games and Songs of American Children," the author is still unable to add many new ones to his list.

How to Count Out

These quaint rhymes seem to be the common of all children, especially these of the Anglo-Saxon or Anglo-Norman race. We all know how these counting out rhymes are used. A game is about to be started and one boy chooses to count out. After a brief clamor of protests from his playmates, all of whom are anxious to do the counting themselves the first boy is generally allowed to proceed.

Standing his playmates in a row in front of him, or in a circle around him, he places his forefinger on his own breast and impressively pronounces the word "one-ery." Placing his finger on the breast of the first playmate to his left be repeats "two-ery" or "ory" according to his version of the rhyme. With each mystic word he places his finger upon the chest of a playmate until be comes to "buck." Buck is out, or free, and the count commences over again, each buck going free until only one boy is left, and he is "It."

Sometimes it happens that there are more boys than words in the counting rhyme, or the counter foresees that he himself will be " It." In both cases he adds to the verse something like this:

One, two, three, 
Out goes he!

Often he will add a whole verse and dialogue as follows:

One, two, three, 
Out goes he 
Into the middle 
Of the deep blue sea! 
All you willing to be IT?

Here the boy indicated answers " Yes " or " no " as it suits him, and the counter continuing, repeats, " N - 0 spells No," or "Y-E-S spells Yes, and you are out. O-U-T spells Out! "

This is spoken with long pauses between the words or letters. "Out" is free, and the counting commences again:

One-ry, or-ry, ickery, Ann! 
Fillison, folliso, Nicholas, John. 
Queevy, quavy, English Navy, 
Stinckelum, stanklum, buck!

Or, as it is sometimes repeated :

One-ery, two-ery, hickory, han, 
Fillison, Follison, Nicholas, John. 
Queevy, quavy, Virgin Mary, 
Stingelum, stangelum, berry buck!

Some say, "English navy," some "Virgin Mary," some Irish Mary, etc. As rule, "English navy " is for boys, and "Virgin", or , "Irish Mary" for girls. Some end with simple "buck," some with "berry buck," some with "John buck," others with "Jericho buck," etc. According to Mr. Bolton there are at least thirty variations of this rhyme, but the lines given here will be all that are necessary for our purpose.

A Counting Verse

It is evident that "Mother Goose" and various other nursery books have contributed some of the verses used, but none of these have the true ring in them. It is apparent that the following has been adapted by the boys for the purpose of a counting verse :

One a penny bun, 
Two a penny bun, 
One a penny, two a penny; 
Out goes one!

And this:

One a penny bun, 
Two a penny bun, 
One a penny, two a penny 
Hot cross buns! 
If your mother don't like 'em, 
Give them to her son. 
One a penny, two a penny, 
Out goes one!

See Also:

Choosing Up

(& Links Below)

OHB

 

 

   

 

 


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Last modified: July 03, 2013.