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Eeny, meeny, miny, moe
Catch a tiger by the toe
If he hollers let him go,
Eeny, meeny, miny, moe.

My mother told me
To pick the best one
And you are [not] it!

I wavered on making this one my pick (ha, ha!) for letter E, but in the past year it has firmly shown up and taken up residence in our home.

Need to choose a book? Well, my eldest will take out 10 and painfully eeny, meeny eliminate down to her final choice.

It’s a splendid stall tactic.


This is what I picture currently going through my child’s head. Image Source

And I am doubly annoyed that she picked up this English nursery selection rhyme at her French school.

You know, where they aren’t supposed to be speaking English.

For what it’s worth, Wikipedia informs me this children’s counting rhyme is common in many languages. However, les enfants dans le cour de l’école de mes filles le chante en anglais….

But facts. Let’s get back to facts. It is used to select a person in games such as tag. Or – as my eldest informs me – to select which doll to play with. Wikipedia tells me it is one of many similar rhymes (Homer helpfully reminds me what those are later in this post) where the item the child points to on the last syllable is “counted out”.

According to the Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (1951 – so that sounds, like, super official as far as lazy blog fact-checking goes) the rhyme has existed in various forms since well before 1820. However, since many similar counting rhymes existed earlier, it’s difficult to figure out the exact origin of this one.

Wikipedia goes on to say that one theory is that the rhyme is descended from Old English, Welsh or Cornish counting à la “Eena, mea, mona, mite”; or that it could be that British colonials brought back their own version from India; or that it could be from a Swahili poem brought to the Americas by enslaved Africans: Iino ya mmiini maiini mo.

But Wikipedia then goes on to credit an Old Saxon diviner rhyme as the most likely origin given work by Dr. Jan Naarding who found the counting rhyme in a 1948 publication and argued it was close to an early mediaeval or even older archetype. That same version was recorded in 1904:

Anne manne miene mukke,
Ikke tikke takke tukke,
Eere vrouwe grieze knech,
Ikke wikke wakke weg.

If that isn’t clear as mud, click through Wikipedia to their notes.

But let’s get back to the late 20th and early 21st century.

My daughter today uses it to select books and dolls and, well STALL.

Fairly certain that a generation ago I did the same.

Nursery rhymes are like a collective cultural history – ever-living and changing to suit the time and space inhabited.

And this one, based on pop culture, resonates.

I remember Homer Simpson from my youth eenie, meenie, miny moeing avoidance of nuclear meltdown:

Then, from my teen years,  I remember Juliet Lewis from Natural Born Killers. More recently, the Beibs and Sean Kingston sing of Eenie Meenie Miny Moe lovers and you can buy the Walking Dead’s Neegan on a mug with his bat (what’s her name?).

But getting back to my here and now? When I have the energy, I serve challenge function in the “eenie meenie” homework and reading avoidance world. When I don’t, we eventually get there anyway, but with a whole lot less reading and work completed.