First, some old business. The answer to last week’s Mystery Poet was… Ernest Hemingway, all the way from Oak Park, Illinois! Give him a hand, folks, I predict he’s going to be a major literary heavyweight before the decade’s out, you watch this boy…
I’m sorry, but when I was a kid we used to teach each other parodies of songs. I know some of these people learned at camp, but learned all these and many more long before i ever sat around a bonfire at ol’ Camp Whitsett, BSA.
This came up because earlier this evening my eldest and I were texting each other… from across the house. It was silly, and fun, and then she thought I was making fun of her commonly saying “Hi-lo” (her playful greeting) when I launched into “Heigh ho.” You may recognize it.
Heigh ho, Heigh ho
It’s off to school we go,
With hand grenades and razor blades
Heigh ho, Heigh ho, Heigh ho,
I bit the teacher’s toe,
She bit me back, that dirty rat,
Heigh ho, Heigh ho,Heigh ho,
It’s off to school we go,
We all learn junk and then we flunk,
Heigh ho, heigh ho.
Well, she didn’t have a clue what I was talking about. Turns out you can get all the way to 7th grade in American schools these days and not get a proper education! First, I had to explain it was a parody of the song from the Disney film Snow White, then I had to convince her that every kid knew this song when I was in school. She didn’t believe me. So I gave her another one.
My eyes have seen the glory of the burning of the school
We have tortured every teacher
We have broken every rule
We have shot the secretary and we hung the principal
Us brats keep marching on!
Glory, Glory, Hallelujah,
Teacher hit me with a rule-ah
I hit her in the butt
With a rotten coconut
And my teacher ain’t my teacher no more.
Perhaps you know one of the many variations in the lyrics, but the essence is the same.
Well, now my daughter thinks I’m certifiable. Certainly I must be making this all up because no one would invent a song like that and go around singing it. Now that I think of it, with the stricter rules concerning threatening behavior, a kid could get expelled for singing such things.
And maybe that’s a part of the problem. Kids today, they don’t know these songs because they’ve had all the sense beaten out of them. They are given homework starting in first grade, required summer reading that kills the joy or reading and summer right out of them, and they spend more time in the classroom learning how to take tests than gain knowledge. But I digress.
Here’s another little ditty that’s lost due to a series of cultural phenomena. First, it requires that you know the tune to Colonel Bogey March. Now this one gets tricky because the tune was written during WWI, but by WWII soldiers had already managed some filthy lyrics to go with it (which I won’t reprint here). I learned the song on the playground before I (incorrectly) learned of its origin while watching Bridge on the River Kwai in seventh grade. Naturally, once you show that film to a bunch of seventh graders that tune not only gets stuck in your head but it dredges up that wonderful little song about a certain household cleanser.
It makes your teeth turn green.
it tastes like gas-o-line.
It makes you vomit.
So buy some Comet, and vomit, today!
Hey, this is some sophisticated stuff here! Seriously, though, how many kids today even know what Comet is? We’ve got a cabinet full of all-natural cleaning supplies and don’t even remember the last time I saw a can of the gritty green stuff that smells like sour swimming pool in a can.
Finally, one that resurrects itself during the holiday season or anytime they make yet another flacid Batman movie.
Robin laid an egg!
Has lost a wheel
And the Joker got away!
This is the most common version I have heard throughout my life, though when you get in the confines of certain retreats (Boy Scout Camp) it isn’t uncommon for a very un-PC version of the last line to emerge, usually by a small core of older boys who sneak it in among all the other voices so no one knows who’s saying:
And Commissioner Gordon’s gay!
Obviously the homophobia of days past have made it so that last line isn’t really funny because the negative connotation is no longer there. Seriously, that line might as well be “And Commissioner Gordon’s an accountant” for all the impact that epithet contains.
I know there are books out there full of the “street culture” of kids, with all the sayings and song and parodies and whatnot, but what saddens me is that this culture seems to be slowly disappearing into these anthropological records. I’m not hearing kids singing parodies of songs or commercial jingles, and I’m wondering if we’ve finally become so fractious as a culture that the possibility of a shared cultural experience is vanishing. I’m not saying these parodies are necessarily the most valuable artifacts, but what is the shared street culture of today, what are the kids singing on the playgrounds?
Where’s the street poetry of childhood today?
Perhaps you have some favorites you’d like to share with the rest of the class?