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Homophobia in Playground Rhymes

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JUMP ROPE CHANTS
THREE SIX NINE


Related threads:
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Azizi 16 Mar 09 - 03:54 PM
Azizi 16 Mar 09 - 04:13 PM
Azizi 16 Mar 09 - 04:35 PM
bubblyrat 16 Mar 09 - 05:49 PM
Azizi 16 Mar 09 - 06:52 PM
Jack Blandiver 16 Mar 09 - 07:50 PM
Richard Bridge 16 Mar 09 - 08:09 PM
Azizi 16 Mar 09 - 08:22 PM
Azizi 16 Mar 09 - 08:44 PM
Azizi 16 Mar 09 - 09:06 PM
katlaughing 16 Mar 09 - 10:32 PM
theleveller 17 Mar 09 - 04:43 AM
GUEST,Will Fly, on the hoof 17 Mar 09 - 05:20 AM
Jack Blandiver 17 Mar 09 - 06:21 AM
Nigel Parsons 17 Mar 09 - 06:28 AM
pavane 17 Mar 09 - 06:33 AM
Emma B 17 Mar 09 - 06:51 AM
Azizi 17 Mar 09 - 07:31 AM
Jack Blandiver 17 Mar 09 - 07:59 AM
Azizi 17 Mar 09 - 08:01 AM
Bryn Pugh 17 Mar 09 - 08:10 AM
Azizi 17 Mar 09 - 08:26 AM
Marje 17 Mar 09 - 08:34 AM
Richard Bridge 17 Mar 09 - 08:35 AM
GUEST,Will Fly, on the hoof 17 Mar 09 - 08:46 AM
Emma B 17 Mar 09 - 09:01 AM
theleveller 17 Mar 09 - 09:10 AM
Azizi 17 Mar 09 - 09:30 AM
Jack Blandiver 17 Mar 09 - 09:34 AM
Azizi 17 Mar 09 - 09:36 AM
Jack Blandiver 17 Mar 09 - 09:39 AM
Will Fly 17 Mar 09 - 10:05 AM
Nigel Parsons 17 Mar 09 - 10:14 AM
Azizi 17 Mar 09 - 10:18 AM
Acorn4 17 Mar 09 - 10:23 AM
Dave Hanson 17 Mar 09 - 10:29 AM
Azizi 17 Mar 09 - 10:55 AM
Azizi 17 Mar 09 - 11:05 AM
Richard Bridge 17 Mar 09 - 01:00 PM
Marje 17 Mar 09 - 01:21 PM
Azizi 17 Mar 09 - 01:29 PM
Kent Davis 18 Mar 09 - 01:44 AM
Joe Offer 18 Mar 09 - 02:37 AM
Marje 18 Mar 09 - 04:55 AM
Jack Blandiver 18 Mar 09 - 05:36 AM
Azizi 18 Mar 09 - 07:56 AM
Bryn Pugh 18 Mar 09 - 08:25 AM
Nigel Parsons 18 Mar 09 - 08:49 AM
Azizi 18 Mar 09 - 08:51 AM
Bernard 18 Mar 09 - 09:45 AM
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Subject: Homophobia in Playground Rhymes
From: Azizi
Date: 16 Mar 09 - 03:54 PM

The book that I am-now-working will provide multiple examples and anaysis from a folkloric standpoint of the contemporary English language playground rhyme "Down By Banks of The Hanky Panky". Most of the examples of that rhyme are from this Mudcat thread: Origins: Down By The Banks Of The Hanky Panky.

Some of those examples simply relate the story of a bullfrog who jumps from "banky to banky" but misses a lily pad and falls into the water. However, since 1984, a significant number of these rhymes have added verses that are insulting to pop singer Michael Jackson in particular, and to homosexuals in general. Disclaimer-I am not saying that I believe Michael Jackson is homosexual. I am saying that the text of a significant number of "Down By The Banks of The Hanky Panky" rhymes include verses that directly say or imply this.

The two ways this allegation is included in these rhymes are:

"I pledge allegiance to the flag
Michael Jackson is a fag"

or

"I pledge allegence to the flag
That Michael Jackson makes me gag
He used to play with little toys
But now he plays with little boys"

-snip-

In the examples I have collected (from Mudcat and a few other Internet sites) including my own website, the line "he used to play with little toys/but now he plays with little boys" is most often used with the "Michael Jackson is a fag" version. However, it is also used with the "makes me gag" version and other lines with similar rhyming words-including "Michael Jackson is a fad" and even 'Michael Jackson is my dad" (!)

So far, I've found one example of the "used to play with toys/now I play with boys" line in a version of the jump rope/hand clap rhyme "Say Say My Playmate." In that example, the line is presumably spoken by a girl who says "When I was younger I like to play with toys/now I am older I like to play with boys".

I'm wondering if any folks here know any examples of older or contemporary English language playground rhymes that include

1. the line "Pledge allegiance to the flag without any reference to Michael Jackson

2. the line "when I was younger I played with toys, now I am older I play with boys"

3. any direct or indirect references to homophobia

I am presenting these examples for the folkloric record, and also because I believe that people need to be aware of the existence of these kinds of negative messages in children's rhymes and be pro-active about countering them if we want children to grow up without biases against people who are homosexual.

Thanks in advance for any examples or any leads to examples that you might share with me.


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Subject: RE: Homophobia in Playground Rhymes
From: Azizi
Date: 16 Mar 09 - 04:13 PM

Many of the versions of "Down By The Banks of The Hanky Panky" which include those homophobic verses also include-albeit in corrupted form-references to a real life occurance.

On January 27, 1984 twenty-five year old R&B/Pop star Michael Jackson was singing his hit song "Billie Jean" for a Pepsi Cola television commercial when the special effects went wrong. The fire works set R&B singer Michael Jackson's jheri curl treated hair on fire and Jackson was rushed to the hospital for treatment.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/january/27/newsid_4046000/4046605.stm

That accident is immortalized by adapting an already existing children's rhyme "Coco-Cola went to town". Here are two examples of part of those verses:

"Pledge allegiance to the flag
Michael Jackson is a fag
he used to play with little toys
now he just plays with little boys
Michael Jackson went to town,
Coca-cola brought him down.
Dr. Pepper brought him up,
Now he's drinking 7up.
7up with no caffeine,
Now he's seein' Billie
Billie Jean is outta sight,
Now we're talking dynamite."...

-snip-

"I pledge allegiance to the flag
michael jackson is a fag
coca cola's burning up
now we're talking 7up
7up has no caffeine
now we're talking billy jean"

=snip-

It is interesting to note that the brand of soda that is most often used in these verses is "Coca-Cola" and not "Pepsi-Cola". This is probably because "Coca-Cola" is the soda that is first named in that pre 1984 rhyme.

I've not found any example-yet-that names any other person except Michael Jackson in that "Pledge allegiance to the flag" line. However, the folk process is already at work in that there are a number of difference spellings for the female name "Billy Jean" which strongly suggest that some of these children don't know who (or what) a "billy jean" is. And there's even an example (on that above linked Mudcat thread) in which Michael Jackson's name is given as "Michael Jack" which implies to me that that child didn't know who Michael Jackson is. It seems to me that there will likely be more folk etymology changes for those two names in years to come.


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Subject: RE: Homophobia in Playground Rhymes
From: Azizi
Date: 16 Mar 09 - 04:35 PM

There are some references to homosexuality in a few of the children's Barney song parodies found on this Mudcat thread:

Lyr Add: Barney Song - I Love You (bawdy parodies)

Those references are combined with some horrific violent suggestions. Imo, that's not a good sign even if most children are just chanting these rhymes for to experiment with being risque'.


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Subject: RE: Homophobia in Playground Rhymes
From: bubblyrat
Date: 16 Mar 09 - 05:49 PM

Azizi....."Birds of a feather ,flock together".
    I am sorry,my friend,but history teaches us that ,whichever way you look at it,from a purely anthropological point of view,those who do not, cannot,or will not,for whatever reason,conform to the "Norm" in any society,are going to be sidelined or even excluded,and certainly discriminated against,and,quite probably,feared.
   Having said that, I think that it is wrong to use the word "Homophobia",as most of us "straight" or "normal" guys are not actually AFRAID of homosexuals, we just find the thought of what they do DISGUSTING and REPULSIVE ! I mean, I don't want to do that kind of thing with a WOMAN, let alone another man-----YUUUK !! And most women I know wouldn't want me to,or let me,even if I did !!So try and understand why the MAJORITY are against it ( it's called "Democracy" in some cultures).And try to understand why kids are kids,and not sexually orientated, or disorientated,adults----they'll find out which way the wind blows,in the fullness of time !! Let them be kids first, eh ??


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Subject: RE: Homophobia in Playground Rhymes
From: Azizi
Date: 16 Mar 09 - 06:52 PM

bubblyrat, I really don't agree with your comments.

My daughter teaches kindergarten. Children in her classes are already calling other kids "gay" in a putdown manner.

I believe that kids are getting these attitudes from the mass media, from some other kids, and also from some adults. And yes, apparentally, they are getting those attitudes from, and incorporating those attitudes into their playground rhymes.

In my opinion, adults who believe that it is wrong to stigmatize populations of people for any reason have a responsibility to let children know that doing so-even "for fun"- is not only is hurtful to people who happen to fall in those populations, but ultimately, is hurtful to society as a whole.


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Subject: RE: Homophobia in Playground Rhymes
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 16 Mar 09 - 07:50 PM

And try to understand why kids are kids,and not sexually orientated-they'll find out which way the wind blows,in the fullness of time !! Let them be kids first, eh ??

I agree (in part, hence the editing). Otherwise the rest of Bubblyrat's post is gut-reactive homophobic subjectivism as its most REPULSIVE.   

Children in her classes are already calling other kids "gay" in a putdown manner.

This comes from South Park (etc.) - I don't think gay in this new pejorative sense means homosexual, any more than it did in its original sense.


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Subject: RE: Homophobia in Playground Rhymes
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 16 Mar 09 - 08:09 PM

The pejorative nature of the reference "gay" is imho solely derived from homophobia and while not myself gay I object to the reference.

It is also rather worrying that I have no recollection of similar homophobic playground rhymes when I was (properly) myself in playgrounds. If my memory is reliable then the homophobia is recent, and contrary to the perception that I had in the 60s and 70s of a social tendency against homophobia.

Part of the undesirable reference of course lies in conflating paedophilia with homosexuality.

Personal attack deleted.
mod


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Subject: RE: Homophobia in Playground Rhymes
From: Azizi
Date: 16 Mar 09 - 08:22 PM

Sinister Supporter, every now and then I substitute teach in the same public school where my daughter teaches.

Not only has my daughter told me about times when children in her room have called other students gay, I have personally witnessed children calling other children (usually males) gay,. In those situations there was no question that these students were saying that the targeted students were homosexual. Sometimes the students accompanied their remarks with the limp hand gesture that supposedly is a "sign" of males being gay. Sometimes they said a particular boy acted like a girl. At other times the students went back & forth exchanging comments "I'm not gay". "You're gay". "No you are." I handled these situations in different ways depending on the circumstances. But I tried to convey the central point that if a person is gay, so what?

To their credit, these students don't appear to tease two boys in the school who appear to be effeminate. But those boys probably ahve heard other students being called "gay" as if that was an insult. I think that has to have some negative consequences even though they aren't the ones being targeted..


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Subject: RE: Homophobia in Playground Rhymes
From: Azizi
Date: 16 Mar 09 - 08:44 PM

Here's another example of a children's rhyme with homosexual text-

Zippy and Bungle
went to the jungle
so they could have some fun,
Zippy got silly
and pulled out his willy
and stuck it up Bungle's bum

http://www.inthe80s.com/rhymes.shtml

It's my understanding from reading this wikipedia page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rainbow_(TV_series) that the both Zippy and Bungle are male puppets in a British television show that was/is somewhat like the American show "Sesame Street".

I'd appreciate it if a British Mudcat member or guest would let me know if I'm correct about that.

**

A person could say that there are no insults in the text. Yet, it appears to me that many children believe that they are insulting a person by calling him a homosexual. Therefore, imo, the children's rhymes that label a person as homosexual should be viewed as insulting rhymes, whether they contain direct insults or not.


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Subject: RE: Homophobia in Playground Rhymes
From: Azizi
Date: 16 Mar 09 - 09:06 PM

I recall reading children's rhymes about the Teletubbies, but can't find any examples right now.

According to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teletubbies, one of the Teletubbies characters, Tinky Winky "has caused much controversy due to allegations that his character's behaviour, bag and body color have homosexual connotations."

-snip-
One of the people speaking out against Tinky Winky was "The Reverend Jerry Falwell, a former spokesman for America's Moral Majority, [who] denounced the BBC TV children's show. He says it does not provide a good role model for children because Tinky Winky is gay."
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/276677.stm

**

But before the Teletubbies there was the rumour about "Sesame Street's" Ernie & Bert being gay.
http://muppet.wikia.com/wiki/Ernie_and_Bert's_Relationship


And before that there were rumours about Batman & Robin being gay.

And before that?

I guess this isn't anything new. Maybe it's just more explicit, like the records that leave very little left unsaid when previously they used coded words for sex.


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Subject: RE: Homophobia in Playground Rhymes
From: katlaughing
Date: 16 Mar 09 - 10:32 PM

I don't know any kids, close-by, who are in school (my grandson here is only in preschool and so far we've not heard anything like this) and my sisters have all retired from teaching, but kids do seem to be more sophisticated these days and I do think they are exposed to way too much media without being taught any critical viewing skills. So, it is good to be aware of this seeming trend and I thank you, Azizi.

When I was writing an op/ed column, I had one which was picked up by a publisher of textbooks. You may read the whole thing on Mudcat Teach Children Critical Thinking Skills. There is a paragraph or two in there about children and television programming.

Hmmm, in doing a google search, I find now the whole book, Violence in the Media, by Greenhaven Press is available in pdf for free at This Address


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Subject: RE: Homophobia in Playground Rhymes
From: theleveller
Date: 17 Mar 09 - 04:43 AM

"we just find the thought of what they do DISGUSTING and REPULSIVE ! I mean, I don't want to do that kind of thing with a WOMAN, let alone another man-----YUUUK !!"

What business of yours is it to comment on what other people do in bed or to decide what is 'normal'? It seems to me you acually get some sort of vicarious pleasure from thinking and talking about other people's sexual predelections. Perhaps you just need to grow up and get a sex life of your own.


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Subject: RE: Homophobia in Playground Rhymes
From: GUEST,Will Fly, on the hoof
Date: 17 Mar 09 - 05:20 AM

Azizi - Zippy and Bungle were puppet characters in a kids' programme called "Rainbow". Zippy had a zip for a mouth and was very mouthy, and Bungle was rather "camp" - ever-so-slightly gay, according to some commentators.

The only kids' playground song with a mild reference to gayness that I can recall being sung was (to the tune of "Jesus Christ, Superstar"):

Georgie Best - superstar
Walk like a woman and he wears a bra."


George Best was a very masculine Irish football star and not in the least gay - but the words just seemed to go together as a parody rather than as an expression of actual feeling.


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Subject: RE: Homophobia in Playground Rhymes
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 17 Mar 09 - 06:21 AM

I have personally witnessed children calling other children (usually males) gay

I was referring to the use of gay to mean naff; in which case it would be used impersonally, directed at a piece of music, a television programme or an event, all of which could be said to be gay (or rather totally gay in the South Park speak of a decade ago) simply implying they weren't very good, rather than in any way homosexual. It follows that gay might be used in this sense as personal attack without the implication of homosexuality, though perhaps I am drawing too fine a line here. It is kids we're dealing with here, acquiring the terminology without being fully appreciative of the wider implications or the etymology, actual or otherwise, of the words they use, however so complex the actual usage, much less the cultural baggage they carry.

That said, Homophobia was rife when I was a kid (b. 1961); as I recall it came in whispered rumours concerning certain celebrity figures whose glam androgyny was indicative of something entirely unnatural and unwholesome. Back then the word of choice was puff - as in such-and-such a (male) person is a puff. We would use it indiscriminately, simply because it had the power to hurt any red-blooded working-class heterosexual male even if their balls remained undropped. Sapphism, as I recall, was less of a concern, however rife the speculation on which members of staff were lezzas, and upon what evidence such speculations might be based...


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Subject: RE: Homophobia in Playground Rhymes
From: Nigel Parsons
Date: 17 Mar 09 - 06:28 AM

"Georgie Best - superstar
Walk like a woman and he wears a bra."


Strange, I remeber it as:
"Georgie Best - superstar
Wears frilly nickers & a Playtex bra."


Nigel


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Subject: RE: Homophobia in Playground Rhymes
From: pavane
Date: 17 Mar 09 - 06:33 AM

A parody of a well known nursery rhyme, date uncertain:

Georgy Porgy, pudding and pie
Kissed the girls and made them cry
When the boys came out to play
He kissed them too, he's funny that way.

The original Georgy Porgy was supposed to be one of the King Georges, not sure which.


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Subject: RE: Homophobia in Playground Rhymes
From: Emma B
Date: 17 Mar 09 - 06:51 AM

Paul Robeson sang 'Mighty Like a Rose'
    Sweetest little fellow ev'rybody knows
    Don't know what to call him but he's mighty like a rose
    Lookin' at his mammy with eyes so shiny blue
    Make you think that heav'n is comin' close to you

When I was a kid the playground version was -
    Sweetest little fellow, wears his sister's clothes
    Don't know what to call him but we think he's 'one of those'

In fact I don't recall any homo 'phobia' in the 50s perhaps because the legal implications for any one 'accused' were too awful.


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Subject: RE: Homophobia in Playground Rhymes
From: Azizi
Date: 17 Mar 09 - 07:31 AM

Thanks to all who have posted to this thread so far.

Kat, I'll read your chapter.


**

Sinister Supporter, you wrote "I was referring to the use of gay to mean naff; in which case it would be used impersonally, directed at a piece of music, a television programme or an event, all of which could be said to be gay (or rather totally gay in the South Park speak of a decade ago)."

Sinister Supporter, are you from the United States, The UK, or another country? It appears that you are saying that you remember kids (and adults?) the word "naff" and the phrase "totally gay" where you live. Perhaps both the word and the phrase were/are used in the US and mean what you wrote. But I've never heard either of them among any African American children, teens, or adults. I asked my daughter who is in her 30s. She has never heard "naff" or "totally gay" either. This doesn't mean that that word and that phrase aren't used among African Americans. But I believe that if they were/are widely used in our media/shows/recordings, we (my daughter and I) would at least be familiar with them.

I looked up "naff" in the Urban Dictionary (a dictionary whose featured words and phrases aren't limited to Black urban slang). Visitors submit definitions for the featured word/phrase and those definitions are voted up or down by other visitors to that site.

Seventeen definitions were submitted for the word "naff". The definition that was voted #1 by 277 persons is:
"naff 277 up, 26 down
British slang, today meaning uncool, tacky, unfashionable, worthless... or as a softer expletive, in places where one might use "fuck" as in "naff off", "naff all", "naffing about".

Origins of the word are disputed, but it appears to have come from Polari (gay slang), used to dismissively refer to heterosexual people. It was introduced as a less offensive expletive verb ("naff off") in the '70s UK television show, Porridge. "Naff off!" was famously used by Princess Anne in 1982."
-snip-

One more thing, Sinister Supporter, neither my daughter nor I have ever watched the South Park television show or its movies. However, my daughter said that some of her friends have watched it and they think it's funny. I think that the "totally gay" phrase may not have been picked up by African Americans because it sounds to much like Valley Girl lingo.

Here's a quote from that Wikipedia page whose link is provided in the preceding sentence:
"A certain sociolect associated with Valley Girls, referred to as "Valspeak," became common across the United States during the 1980s and 1990s, and much entered teenage slang throughout the country.

"Qualifiers such as "like", "way", "as if!", "totally" and "duh" were interjected in the middle of phrases and sentences as emphasizers."
-snip-

My sense is that Valspeak is more likely to borrow from Black (hip-hop and otherwise) slang/vernacular than the other way around.


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Subject: RE: Homophobia in Playground Rhymes
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 17 Mar 09 - 07:59 AM

Fascinating stuff. I was told that Naff (as in Naff Off etc.) derived from Naafi, at least with respect of prison slang, supposing Clement & La Frenais did their homework! One wonders when it became generally pejorative - which was the sense I used it in earlier. I come from the North East of England (South East Northumberland as was, North Tyneside as is) though I no longer live there. I remain a fan of South Park, as I have been since it was first shown in the UK - some of the funniest TV ever to come out the States.


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Subject: RE: Homophobia in Playground Rhymes
From: Azizi
Date: 17 Mar 09 - 08:01 AM

Okay. I get it. I need to be more careful with the italic font commands. My apologies to all. If a moderator wouldn't mind changing the words in this post after the first sentence of the Sinister Supporter section back to regular font, I'd appreciate it. If not, it's alright. I promise to check and double check my font commands from now on.

**

Thanks to all those who posted "Georgie Best" rhymes. Here's another one from http://www.odps.org/glossword/index.php?a=term&d=3&t=360


Georgie Best
Superstar
Walks like a woman
And he wears a bra
The bra's too big
He wears a wig
And that's why they call him
A sexy pig.

-snip-

And as another example that "English in the UK is sometimes a foreign language" to people in the United States, when Will Fly wrote that "George Best was a very masculine Irish football star", he meant what Unitedstaters call "soccer".

Also, Will, you wrote that the puppet Zippy had a 'zip' for his mouth. At first, I wondered whether you meant "zip code" (those numbers after addresses that are used for to help expediate the delivery of post office mail), but I figured that you meant "zipper". I've heard the phrase "zip (up) your lip". (meaning "Stop talking"), but in the USA, we say "zipper" and don't shorten it to "zip".

And the George Best example that Nigel shared includes the word "nickers". I've been hangin' out at Mudcat long enough to know that word means what UnitedStaters would refer to as "panties". Btw, is that word also spelled "knickers"? Or is that another article of clothing? (short pants, not underwear?)

**

Technically, all those examples plus EmmaB's example refer to cross dressing and not homosexuality. But I suppose that many children/adults think that all cross dressers are homosexual, but from what (little) I've read on that subject, that's not true.

**

Thanks again for those examples and links to other reference material on this subject and related subjects!


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Subject: RE: Homophobia in Playground Rhymes
From: Bryn Pugh
Date: 17 Mar 09 - 08:10 AM

Hi, Azizi

When I was at Grammar School (1956 - 1961) - a school for boys only - the words "queer" ; "poof" "nancy-boy" "bum-boy" "arse bandit"

"turd shunter" were pejorative insults hurled in the playground at any boy, or young man, who was seen to be apart from the "common throng" in any way.

A stutter, a limp, being useless at Rugby, Cricket, Lacrosse or Boxing, left one wide open to such an appellation, and being shunned.

There were those among the muscular, hairy-arsed heroes of sport who claimed to be able to tell whether a boy (young man) masturbated.

It would be a good few years before same-sex sexual activity, between consenting adults, was decriminalised in the UK, following the Wolfenden Report to Parliament, which resulted in the

eventual enactment of (note the title of the Act !!) the Sexual Offences Act 1965.

For me, I am interested only in what goes on in one bedroom only : that of my wife and I. We have friends, close ones, of both genders, who are openly homosexual, and it bothers us not in the slightest.

At school, we were convinced that the gym master was queer, as the label went in those days. I left the cadet force when, my having left school, the same gym master applied to become an

Officer of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. Such Officers, generally speaking, were directly involved with the Air Training Corps, the UK Air Cadets.


Air Cadets were then (and for all I know, still are) aged between 14 and 19.

"Naff", in this context, I am assured by a close male friend who is homosexual, is from the Palare, and is an acronym - "not available for fucking".

It is still rumoured in the UK that the reason why same-sex activity between women, was not criminalised as was what was then referred to as Sodomy, because Queen Victoria did not understand the

perceived "mechanics" of female homosexuality ; and no one felt to explain these to Her Maj.


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Subject: RE: Homophobia in Playground Rhymes
From: Azizi
Date: 17 Mar 09 - 08:26 AM

It also occurs to me that the line "Michael Jackson is a fag" line proabably wouldn't be used in the UK since in that nation* 'fag' means 'cigarette' (something else I learned from hangin' out on Mudcat).

*However, I'm not certain whether it's politically incorrect to make the word nation as a reference to The United Kingdom singular or plural. Would someone please post which is the correct usage. Thanks.

**

I've also been thinking that people could read homophobic references into children's playground rhymes when they may not be meant. And even if the rhyme does refer to homosexuality, that doesn't mean that every child who recites it or reads it will get (understand)that meaning.

For example, there's this rhyme:

Batman and Robin
Flying through the air
Robin lost his underwear
Robin said "Me don't care"*
Batman'll buy me another pair.
-African American boy, age 7, Pittsburgh, PA, 2000 (versions also found on a lot of children's playground rhymes)

*also given as "Robin said "I don't care".
-snip-

Some children (most children?) might understand this rhyme as Batman being a nice guy because he buys his friend Robin underwear (boxers or briefs) just to help him out because Robin lost his. But this rhyme could also imply that the male superheroes Batman and Robin were doing something together which necesitated that they take off their underwear and accidentally resulted in Robin losing his (underwear, that is).

I just think that adults have to be cautious about reading too much into every children's rhyme (I'm writing this especially for myself).


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Subject: RE: Homophobia in Playground Rhymes
From: Marje
Date: 17 Mar 09 - 08:34 AM

I don't think it's surprising that children chant verses that might be offensive to adults - that's very much the point of doing it. Children are trying to make sense of adult sexuality. They can't help but be aware of jokes and innuendoes about various sexual practices, including homosexuality, cross-dressing, paedophilia etc. By sharing such rhymes and jokes, they exchange information and views (albeit misleading or twisted) about what adults get up to, and what it is that makes sex "rude". Taboos are endlessly fascinating.

It's not just homosexuality that intrigues them. The very idea of sex is a bit bewildering to many children, and they can't understand why it's so important to adults. Kids also go through a phase of being preoccupied with toilets, bottoms and excretory functions, which are much more interesting to many of them, and may seem to them to be connected with sex in some vague way that they don't understand.

So I wouldn't get too concerned about children being "homophobic" - they're just testing the water, trying to see what reaction they get from expressing various ideas.

It's up to the adults in their lives to have a word with them if they seem to be getting obsessed with particular aspects of sexuality. I remember seeing two brothers playing together. The little one (aged maybe 3) picked up his sister's doll and cradled it. His older brother said, "Yah, poofter!" This was the point at which a parent ought to have said something (alas, I have to report that no one did).

Oh, and for US readers: yes, British "knickers" (aka pants, which are NOT outer garments) are what you call panties, and a "zip" is what you call a zipper (we don't have "zip codes, you see).

How much can we say in this thread before some filter kicks in and blocks these posts?!!


Marje


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Subject: RE: Homophobia in Playground Rhymes
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 17 Mar 09 - 08:35 AM

It is "zipper" that is the contraction. The correct designation of the object is "zip fastener".

I recollect perfectly well from my "prep" (UK speak for private school usually boarding for chilren up to the age of 13) school and my public school (I assume everyone now knowns that bit of UK speak) both pupil/pupil and pupil/master homosexual interaction. I also recollect insulting terms usually used in those contexts - usually "queer" - but I don't recollect any "playground rhymes" using homophobic insults. In fact I don't recollect any "playground rhymes" at all - maybe they are more common amongst girls?

Where I am wholly clear however is that the first time I heard "gay" as a generally unfavourable quality descriptor was only a few years ago, when a friend of mine with a rock band, and himself rather keen on Marshall full stacks, referred to another guitarist's rather nice Fender Twin Reverb as a "gay-sounding Fender Amp".

In that context and every one since in which I have hear that usage of "gay" as meaning "inferior" I am wholly clear that it was analogous to describing homosexuality as inferior to heterosexuality. I have had a few arguemnts on the point since with would be hard rock heroes who get quite upset about being pulled up on PC grounds!


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Subject: RE: Homophobia in Playground Rhymes
From: GUEST,Will Fly, on the hoof
Date: 17 Mar 09 - 08:46 AM

I haven't checked my Eric Partridge Dictionary of Slang but I believe "gay" was used in Victorian times to mean drunk or having a good time while drunk - probably street slang. It's a word that's slid through several meanings over the years.


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Subject: RE: Homophobia in Playground Rhymes
From: Emma B
Date: 17 Mar 09 - 09:01 AM

This song sung to the tune of The Girl I left behind me' was collected by James Ritchie and published in his book 'The Singing Street' described as 'a social history of the century..sketched through skipping songs,singing games and rhymes'

Don't go out with Jane no more
Don't go out with Mary
Don't go out with girls any more
Woops! I am a fairy.


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Subject: RE: Homophobia in Playground Rhymes
From: theleveller
Date: 17 Mar 09 - 09:10 AM

Shag" or "shagged" is another word found in the playground that has a plethora of meanings,including:
!. A seabird
2. A dance
3. Sexual intercourse
4. Extremely tired
5. Broken

My Fender Twin Reverb amp is certainly not gay-sounding although, being over 40 years old, it is a bit shagged (as, indeed, am I).


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Subject: RE: Homophobia in Playground Rhymes
From: Azizi
Date: 17 Mar 09 - 09:30 AM

If indeed there is more overt mention of homosexuality in children's playground rhymes, it's not necessarily a recent trend, unless by "recent" you mean 25 years ago (1984). Though some contributors of the Michael Jackson insult verses refer more generally to chanting those rhymes in the 1980s, you will recall that the 1984 date was when that Pop star was burned while filming the Pepsi-Cola commercial that includes a version of his hit song "Billie Jean".

Many of these "Down By The Banks Of The Hanky Panky" verses include references to "Michael Jackson", "various brands of soda pop", Jackson "being burned" {or being "bought up" which I take to mean being "messed up"), and "Billie Jean" (often in corrupted form such as 'beligene' or 'belgain'). Because of those references, it seems to me that there's no doubt that these verses have their source in (or were adapted to fit) that 1984 Michael Jackson hair catching on fire incident.

Mind you, I'm not sure that children made up these verses. I think it's highly probable that some adult (for instance, a television comedian) made the verses up and children heard them (perhaps from other adults repeating them). I think that it's likely that children picked these verses up, added to them purposely and through folk etymology, and started passing them on by word of mouth to other kids.*

I think that is a likely scenario because these verses are so widespread that it seems to me that their dissemination needed to have had some assistance from the mass media.

*Of course, one way that these rhymes are being disseminated is through Internet sites such as Mudcat and my website on children's rhymes, Cocojams.

There are other websites (such as the "In the 80s children's rhymes" site) that have a few examples of these verses. However, most websites on children's rhymes only have a few examples of the mildly competitive, non-insulting versions of "Hanky Panky" hand clap rhymes.

If you're interested in reading a lot of versions of the insulting versions of this rhyme, the best Internet resource is
Origins: Down By The Banks Of The Hanky Panky


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Subject: RE: Homophobia in Playground Rhymes
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 17 Mar 09 - 09:34 AM

In that context and every one since in which I have hear that usage of "gay" as meaning "inferior" I am wholly clear that it was analogous to describing homosexuality as inferior to heterosexuality.

As the word originally meant something else, I don't think it is wholly clear that this new pejorative sense of Gay derives from its homosexual meaning, though as I said earlier the line might be a fine one. When did Gay come to mean homosexual? The grotesque effeminacy of Larry Grayson with his (admittedly ambiguous) catch-phrase What a gay day brought it to the popular (UK) conciousness, and one reads Here that the word entered broad use in the 1960s. There persists the notion that equates effeminacy with homosexuality (Nancy Boys, Fairies etc.) and I might allow that the pejorative use of Gay could imply such an effeminacy which is, in actuality, by no means guaranteed to be actually homosexual. Most of my Gay friends aren't effeminate in the slightest.

*

As for the UK - United Kingdom - one nation, I feel, however so diverse. There are as many different cultural identities & rivalries between counties as between countries, and the lines are never that clear anyway. All of my friends in Scotland are English; all of my Scottish friends live in England; I am a Northumbrian living in Lancashire & my name is Irish! Ultimately, a citizen of but two places: 1) My own skin and 2) The planet which gives it the atmospheric pressure to maintain its integrity. Where was I born? Some point in space and time that North Shields passed through away back in August 1961. A very different planet from that which we live on now, as the UK #1 for that month will attest:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5I2cG-ed6hw

Isn't that the worst thing you've ever heard?


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Subject: RE: Homophobia in Playground Rhymes
From: Azizi
Date: 17 Mar 09 - 09:36 AM

It also seems to me that the rather overt mention of homosexuality (that is found in some "Down By The Banks Of The Hanky Panky" rhymes) is part and parcel of the overt mention of heterosexual sex that is found in some other contemporary children's playground rhymes. But, as I wrote earlier, I don't thiink that every child understands what some of these verses mean. That said, there are some verses whose meaning is very clear.

Here's an example of a verse that could be about sex, but could also be interpreted as having nothing to do with sex-particularly by younger children:

See that house up on the hill.
That's where me and my baby live.
Eat a piece of meat
Eat a piece of bread.
Come on baby. let's go to bed

-snip-

This verse is a floater in some "Down By The Banks Of The Hanky Panky" rhymes. It is sometimes found in certain versions of "I Love (Like) Coffee I Love Tea" rhymes (which definitely predate these Michael Jackson "Hanky Panky" rhymes).

**
Here's an example of a contemporary children's rhyme that overtly refers to heterosexual sex:

Jack and Jill went up the hill
to have a little fun,
Stupid Jill forgot the pill,
and now they have a son.
Jack and Jill went up the hill
to fetch a pail of water
Jack got horny, Jill got corny
and now they have a daughter.
Jack and Jill went up the hill
to smoke some marijuana
Jack got high, unzipped his fly
and Jill said "Ooh, I wanna."

http://www.inthe80s.com/rhymes.shtml

-snip-

That website provides a number of different versions of this Jack & Jill parody. I should mention that examples from that website are used with prior permission from that site editor. Thanks!


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Subject: RE: Homophobia in Playground Rhymes
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 17 Mar 09 - 09:39 AM

PS - I could say the gayest thing you've ever heard, but wouldn't wish to be construed as being in any way homophobic!


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Subject: RE: Homophobia in Playground Rhymes
From: Will Fly
Date: 17 Mar 09 - 10:05 AM

Oh I don't know - I quite liked Helen Shapiro, and she's a good jazz singer these days. How about little Laurie London singing "He's got the whole world in his hands"? Now that was a stinker...


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Subject: RE: Homophobia in Playground Rhymes
From: Nigel Parsons
Date: 17 Mar 09 - 10:14 AM

Echoing EmmaB:
Don't go out with Jane no more
Don't go out with Mary
Don't go out with girls any more
Woops! I am a fairy.


I recall as:
"I don't go with girls any more,
I don't go with Mary.
I don't go with girls anymore.
Whoops, I'm a fairy"
The tune (not "the girl I left behind me") was "Pop goes the weasel"
This would be late 60s/early 70s UK


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Subject: RE: Homophobia in Playground Rhymes
From: Azizi
Date: 17 Mar 09 - 10:18 AM

Marje, I wrote my latest two post before reading yours. I agree with what you are saying about children testing the limits and trying to make sense about taboos. I also agree that when children use words that insult individuals parents and other adults should let them know that what they said is an insult.

Btw, Marje, I'm unfamiliar with the word "poofter" as you used it in the sentence "Yah, poofter!". By the way that you used it, I'm assuming that it means the same thing as "queer" (a word that I am familiar with as a sometimes derogatory referent for a person who is homosexual). But maybe some folks from the United States know the word "poofter".

Btw2, I realize that working from a degree of disadvantage here in that I'm not only unfamiliar with a lot of British vernacular but I also may be unfamiliar with some Anglo-American vernacular terms. In addition, I find myself editing out some African American slang/vernacular sayings because I (perhaps erroneously) am assuming that most folks here won't be famiiiar with Black American slang/vernacular unless those words/phrases have been absorped into "mainstream" English. For instance, I was going to write that a number of (what I call) the Michael Jackson verses talk about him being "bought up" which I think means that he "got jacked up". But I changed that vernacular to "got messed up".

Richard Bridge, and others, with regard to that word "gay", I continue to maintain that African Americans I know (and African Americans in the mass media) don't use "gay" to mean "of inferior quality". Instead of "gay", we say something that is of poor quality is "jive" or "weak" or "wacked" or "lame" or "garbage" or "Mickey Mouse". That's just a sample. I'm sure there are some oldish terms that I've forgotten and some new terms that I'm not aware of.

I hasten to say that I really enjoy learning about the etymology and different usages for words & phrases. Although these word meaning/usage posts in this thread are somewhat off-topic, I think that they enrich the thread. I'm appreciative of those posts as well as the posts that are more more directly on-topic.


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Subject: RE: Homophobia in Playground Rhymes
From: Acorn4
Date: 17 Mar 09 - 10:23 AM

It's all just a sign that children no longer seem to have a childhood as such. Much of the sexual innuendo/reference is probably picked up from those in the playground who mix with teenage peers. Unfortunately children do not say "Cor, what a swizz!" these days.

There was a rather amusing incident which happened a few years back when I was still teaching. The school I taught at had a very wide range of ethnic and social class backgrounds. There were two boys who came from the more well-heeled side of the catchment area one of whom decided on a bit of mischief -he went up to one of the girls in the playground and said "Alastair wants to shag you".

The lads obviously didn't know what the word meant, but had just said it because they knew it was probably rude. The girl promptly reported what had been said to the school caretaker, who was also the mid-day supervisor.

The caretaker gave both of the lads a suitably good dressing down and both came back into afternoon school looking suitably shame-faced.

The caretaker reported what had been said to me as I was the boys' class teacher. Apparently he had given them a lecture along the lines of:-

"Do you always go around saying that sort of thing?

"Do your parents talk like that?"

to which one of the lads relied:-

"Well I think I have heard my parents discussing shagging on occasions!"

This is not actually about homophobia, but I think it does show a bit about the playground dynamics which can produce the statements.


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Subject: RE: Homophobia in Playground Rhymes
From: Dave Hanson
Date: 17 Mar 09 - 10:29 AM

I'm 62 years old and as kids we sang,

The boy stood on the burning deck,
His arshole to the mast,
He didn't dare to budge an inch,
Till Oscar Wilde had past.


Nothing is new.


Dave H


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Subject: RE: Homophobia in Playground Rhymes
From: Azizi
Date: 17 Mar 09 - 10:55 AM

Emma and Nigel, were those "Whoops, I'm a fairy" parodies sung by children without any accompanying body motions like hand clapping or jumping rope (skipping rope)?

Btw, at least the short form of the "Down By The Banks Of The Hanky Panky" rhyme (those examples without the Michael Jackson verses) appear to be part of a category of hand clap rhymes that are played by boys & girls together.

Here's one example of the short form of these rhymes:

Down by the banks of the hanky-panky
where the bullfrogs jump from bank to banky
With the heaps, hops, soda pops,
Jumped on a lillypad and went kerplop!
At "Kerplop" the object of the game is to be the first to smack the other person's forehead.
- diana, 11/2/2005; http://blog.oftheoctopuses.com/000518.php ; "Schoolyard Games"
-snip-

Here's one long form example of this rhyme that isn't insulting, and doesn't include any Michael Jackson verses:

down by the banks of the hanky panky
wear the bull frogs jump form bakn to bany
where hip hops soda pops
hey mr. willy and he went kerplop
here comes noah walking in the dark
he stepped on a hammer and he built an ark
animals came by two by two
a hungry hippo and a kangaroo
-socalgal89; 6/16/2005; http://blog.oftheoctopuses.com/000518.php ; "Schoolyard Games"

**

The short versions of this family of rhymes appear to be chanted by a wide age range of male and female children, teens, as well as adults. Imo, the mildly competitive performance activity is what makes these rhymes so appealing to such a wide age range of males & females. Males who wouldn't be caught dead playing hand clap rhymes also appear to go along with (if not initiate) other circle hand clap games which are mildly competitive such as "Stella Ella Ola" and "Quack Diddly Oso" (or similar sounding names). Here's a link to the Mudcat thread for
Kids chant Stella Ola Ola / Stella Ella Ola

In contrast, most of the longer versions of these "Hanky Panky" rhymes are non-competitive.

I believe that the longer the version of "Down By The Banks of The Hanky Panky", the less likely it will be that boys will be involved in the chanting or the performance activity. Imo, the long form versions of these rhymes are more likely to be chanted and peformed by girls (ages 7-12) while they perform partner (or three or four person) hand clap routines (games).


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Subject: RE: Homophobia in Playground Rhymes
From: Azizi
Date: 17 Mar 09 - 11:05 AM

oops! The short form example that I gave may indeed have been played as a partner hand clap rhyme.

Here's another example of the short, competitive form of this rhyme:

Down by the banks of hte Hanky panky
where the bull frogs jump from bank to banky
singing uuh oopp bop bop
eeeh oopp bop bop
ooh oopp bop bop
POW!

( all in a circle your right hand on top of the person to the rghts left hand and your left hand under the persons beside you, works in a chain one person claps and it goes around fast slapping each persons hand the one slapped or in the process of slapping if no one is slappe don the POW is out.)
-mandi; 4/26/2006' http://blog.oftheoctopuses.com/000518.php ; "Schoolyard games"


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Subject: RE: Homophobia in Playground Rhymes
From: Richard Bridge
Date: 17 Mar 09 - 01:00 PM

I'm in England so I am most exposed to English usage.

Do male schoolchildren these days play rhyming or skipping games? They did not when I was young.


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Subject: RE: Homophobia in Playground Rhymes
From: Marje
Date: 17 Mar 09 - 01:21 PM

Azizi - Yes, "poofter" is a derogatory word for a male homosexual. I think in the instance I qupted, the child simply meant that his brother was behaving in a girly or effeminate way, which is not the same thing at all, but that's a confusion that's not confined to children.

I agree with what you say about where kids get the rhymes from - they may well pick up stuff from TV, films, or older members of their households and use it to show off to their mates without really understanding what it's all about.

Richard - I don't suppose boys use skipping rhymes much, but I suspect they may still use abusive or rude rhymes to tease or taunt each other. Then when they get a bit older they discover one aspect of British culture that is still a living oral tradition - rugby songs. These songs - varying from mildly risque to downright filthy - have infiltrated the song repertoire used by the Scouts and other youth groups, even if the kids tend to keep them for times when adults are not around. And casual references to homosexuality are one feature of the rugby song repertoire.

Marje


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Subject: RE: Homophobia in Playground Rhymes
From: Azizi
Date: 17 Mar 09 - 01:29 PM

Richard, the short answer is "No, not usually". But when it comes to competitive hand clap games, the answer changes to "Maybe".

Here's a link to a YouTube video that shows one way of standing up and playing the circle version of this game:

down by the banks 2

**

Here are links to two videos of teens sitting down & playing this game:
High school class-Down By The Banks 1

and

High school class-Down By The Banks 2


**

Here's a link to two teenage girls doing a hand clap routine with other body movements to a Michael Jackson version of "Down By The of the Hanky Panky":

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KP85IV4cX-Y&NR=1


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Subject: RE: Homophobia in Playground Rhymes
From: Kent Davis
Date: 18 Mar 09 - 01:44 AM

Azizi,

To understand the significance of negative references to homosexuality in playground rhymes is a worthy goal. May I respectfully suggest that the term "homophobia" is a barrier to achieving that goal.
In the parody section of your site http://www.cocojams.com/children%27s%20parodies.htm , I see songs with negative references to Barney, Sani-flush, Comet, policemen, schools, tuberculosis patients, teachers, principals, Jackie Chan, ugly people, fat people, skinny people, the Howdy Doody show, the F.B.I., long johns, bosco, mothers, etc. Those songs are not examples of dinophobia, school phobia, pedagogophobia, maternaphobia, etc. A phobia is a irrational fear that is strong enough to interfere with one's daily functioning. None of the examples cited in this thread show homophobia. They show disapproval, but disapproval is not phobia.

Kent


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Subject: RE: Homophobia in Playground Rhymes
From: Joe Offer
Date: 18 Mar 09 - 02:37 AM

Small point, Kent, but I think the term "homophobia" is a bit broader. A definition from the dictionary.com Website, which is based on the Random House Dictionary, says homophobia is unreasoning fear of or antipathy toward homosexuals and homosexuality.. The Merriam-Webster Medical Dictionary cited at the Website calls it irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality or homosexuals.

Most of the "phobias" are fears - but the term "homophobia" seems to be used for both fear and prejudice.

Funny how our language develops - often, it doesn't follow rules.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Homophobia in Playground Rhymes
From: Marje
Date: 18 Mar 09 - 04:55 AM

You're right, both Joe and Kent (above). "Homophobia" is the only word we have at present but it's not a very appropriate word, as it suggests an irrational fear. There are people with such a phobia, but anti-gay discrimination or disapproval of homosexuality is not evidence of a phobia.

We need a word that's parallel with "racism" "sexism", "ageism" etc, but I can't think quite what it would be. Gayism"? Homism?

Children are very unlikely to have a phobia, or even to be guilty of discrimination - they are more likely (if there's an issue at all) to express disapproval or to make fun of homosexuality.

I haven't got a solution, but I agree that the right word doesn't exist as yet.

Marje


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Subject: RE: Homophobia in Playground Rhymes
From: Jack Blandiver
Date: 18 Mar 09 - 05:36 AM

Homophobia is a strong word for serious condition with serious implications; it is very much in evidence both in Bubblyrat's revulsion above (16th March, 5.49pm) and his attempts to justify this revulsion as being somehow normal, and by implication natural, thus giving him the excuse to feel this way without ever wondering why. That he is not alone in this is cause for grave concern and entirely justifies the word phobia . Children (in my experience both of children & childhood) are uniformly homophobic; I know I was as a child, as were my working-class male peers - as indicated above one the sure fire ways of getting at someone was to call them a puff. However, I don't see this as being in any way natural or instinctive, rather a manipulation of our basic curiosities by way of ensuring such prejudices endure, and society (especially working-class society) is kept in place by its traditional prejudices and hostilities to anything a little different from the so-called norm.   

This has a lot to do with so-called sex-education which hypocritically deals with sex solely in terms of procreation within monogamous heterosexual relationships despite the fact that the mechanism of human sexual behaviour is determined not by its biological function rather by ensuring that such behaviour is such that procreation will upon occasion actually take place. Somewhere, no doubt, there will be statistics showing the proportion of instances of heterosexual intercourse that result in conception - and those that don't. Not only will this prove fascinating reading, but will effectively give the lie to the somewhat perverse notion that sexual intercourse is somehow about procreation and is, therefore, somehow natural to that end - the implication being that homosexual intercourse is entirely unnatural and therefore an abomination in the eyes of both God and Nature.


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Subject: RE: Homophobia in Playground Rhymes
From: Azizi
Date: 18 Mar 09 - 07:56 AM

Thanks for such an interesting discussion.

I agree that the word "homophobic" is not a perfect fit for children's disapproval of people who are homosexual and people who they think are homosexuals. But I'm gonna go with the term people are familiar with, and add some explanatory comments in my notes to that section of my book on "Down By The Banks Of The Hanky Panky" rhymes.

I should note that pnly about 1/3 of the 165 examples that I've collected from Internet "mining" (meaning those examples that were posted on websites that I have permission to use)*, refer to Michael Jackson. And most of those rhymes use an insulting line such as "Michael Jackson makes me gag" instead of using the line "Michael Jackson is a fag". Note that in the YouTube video of the two teens chanting this rhyme, they appear to say "Michael Jackson is a brag". Furthermore, in two of these examples, the contributors mention that she/he and their friends either alternate/d the versions of this rhyme from the "homophobic" version to the "gag" version, or they stopped using the "homophobic" version, though no reason was given why they stopped using it. It would be nice to think that someone (and adult, an older teen, or a child around their age) intervened and let them know that it's not a good idea to insult individuals or groups of people because of their sexual orientation.


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Subject: RE: Homophobia in Playground Rhymes
From: Bryn Pugh
Date: 18 Mar 09 - 08:25 AM

Echoing Dave Hanson, supra :

The boy stood on the burning deck
His arse glued to the mast.
He durst not move a fucking inch
Till the dreaded bummmer passed.

The bummer was a crafty sod -
He threw the boy a fritter.
The boy bent down to pick it up -
WHAM ! Six inches up his shitter.


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Subject: RE: Homophobia in Playground Rhymes
From: Nigel Parsons
Date: 18 Mar 09 - 08:49 AM

I find the term homophobia inappropriate for the discussion as well.
The chants/rhymes show that children do descriminate, but there is a difference in discriminating between different lifestyles and discriminating against different lifestyles.
Many people (particularly those who are in minorities) seem to assume that any discrimination is to their disadvantage.

Cheers
Nigel


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Subject: RE: Homophobia in Playground Rhymes
From: Azizi
Date: 18 Mar 09 - 08:51 AM

Thanks Kent for posting a link to my Cocojams.com website.

I've been thinking about why I have a different opinion about the "appropriateness" of these "homophobic" verses and the appropriateness of what I call "teacher taunts" (children's/teen's rhymes that insult teachers and/or other school personel, often using very violent references).

Certainly some people consider teacher taunts to be very offensive. See for example the comment from LindaS 4/3/2007 on this Cocojams' page: Cocojams Jambalaya-Visitors' Comments & Questions:

"I've read through a few pages of your site, and as a teacher and a white woman, I find it highly offensive. I have taught for 36 years, and I never heard any children coming up with the nasty teacher taunts you have posted. You say you are against violence, yet you clearly post violent materials. You say these violent chants are done by whites and that is simply not true. It is no wonder there is trouble between the races when people like you promote hatred against whites AND education."
-snip-

Here is part of my response to Linda S:

"Linda, I appreciate your comment. However, I vehemently deny that I am "promoting hatred against whites AND Education". Some of my best friends are White and/or work in education fields. Fwiw, I invite you to read my comments that preface this Cocojams' page. I fully admit...my speculation that these rhymes [teacher taunts] appear to me to be better known among White folks than Black folks...
-snip-

I ended my comments to Linda S. by inviting her to read the comments about teacher taunts from [Mudcat member] Ragdall that are posted on that page. Here's a quote from those comments:

"We chanted them [teacher taunts] because they were humorous and a wee bit naughty. We chanted them because it made us "one of the group". No, we never meant the words."
-snip-

Also see this comment on the subject of teacher taunts that was sent in by another Cocojams contributor, perhaps in response to Linda S's complaint:

"I am a white, 36 year old female born in Florida, raised in California. I have heard many of the rhymes listed through the years. Anyone who hasn't, has not paid much attention to kids in general. I always get annoyed by those offended by things such as this. Most youth are opposed to any authority. Our movies and music are full of that evidence. Does freedom of speech extend only to teachers and grown adults. It seems that once you enter the public school realm that freedom is left at the door. Make a profit by those rhymes then it is under the freedom of speech laws and called art by most. Quit taking everything so seriously and maybe some of the kids will too. These chants and rhymes date back decades and were taken with a grain of salt. I don't think that you can designate a gender or race that is at fault for these rhymes and chants just blame it on really immature children who have a distaste for any authority.
-Xina ; 4/30/2007; cocojams.com

-snip-
I admit that there is a thin line between the offensiveness of teacher taunts and the offensiveness of homophobic rhymes. I post editorial comments cautioning the use of both of these types of rhymes on Cocojams pages where these examples are posted. Yet I think that there are crucial differences between the two types of rhymes.

It seems to me that most people who chant teacher taunts are teenagers and not younger children. I think that most of these teens recognize the implications of what they are saying and know that they don't mean these rhymes to be taken literally. I think that most people who chant teacher taunts do so to be "a wee bit naughty" and to show that they can challenge authority (albeit with little to no consequences, since these rhymes are usually not chanted in within the presence of teachers).

Furthermore, from comments about these rhymes that I have read online and comments that I have received via email*, I think that most teachers and other adults consider teacher taunts to be "rites of passage/flaunting authority" rhymes that kids have been saying for years, and which kids don't really mean. Admittedly, as a reaction to Columbine and other horrific school shootings, most schools have taken a hard no tolerance line against anyone chanting teacher taunts in school and on school premises.

In contrast to teacher taunts, I think that a number of these "homophobic verses" are chanted by younger children (ages 7-12 years) who don't understand the implications of what they are saying, and don't understand how "dissin'" Michael Jackson, and by extention, other people that folks think are gay or are effeminate, might be hurtful to those people (if not to Michael Jackson himself). I don't want children, teens, and adults in the future to still stigmatize people because of those people's sexual orientation. I don't think teachers are really stigmatized as a group, or they are certainly not stigmatized in the same way as people who are homosexuals are. People have been killed because someone took offense to them being homosexual, or fitting the stereotypes that society has for being homosexual. These are the differences I find between teacher taunts and "homophobic" verses.

I welcome further discussion in this thread on these comments.

*Aside from the rather mild rhyme "No more writing/no more books/no more teachers' dirty looks", I can't remember ever saying or hearing any teacher taunt. I have a number of family members who are teachers (in predominately African American schools in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Georgia). I've asked those family members about their recollections of any teacher taunts. None of these men and women could recall any from their childhood/teen years or from their students (most of whom are African Americans). One female African American high school teacher in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (an acquaintance and not a family member) who I talked with about this subject said that "Black kids don't need teacher taunts to challenge authority. They have rap music." I found that to be a rather intriguing statement.

Admittedly this is not a scientific sample. It's possible that teacher taunts are widely chanted among African Americans who attend predominately Black schools as well as African Americans who attend somewhat integrated or predominately White schools. I think this would be a good research project for some university graduate students.


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Subject: RE: Homophobia in Playground Rhymes
From: Bernard
Date: 18 Mar 09 - 09:45 AM

As kids we used to sing:

Bobby Shafto's gone to sea
With silver buckles round his knee
When he comes back he'll marry me
Kinky Bobby Shafto...

(and the Georgy Porgy parody above)


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