Jump Rope Chants; Are They Becoming Extinct?

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One of the earliest play platforms was the jump rope. It and the ball were and are the basis for an almost endless number of games. No one knows precisely where or when jump roping originated, but you can bet it dates back to the earliest rope-making communities. That means it’s been around for thousands of years. 

As a result, jump roping, through its use of chants that have been passed down orally, is a purveyor of culture and politics and a powerful connection between the generations. Unfortunately, due to the loss of street culture for kids, children are no longer passing on the rhymes, and as a result, we are losing that special communion children have with their forebears.

I found a very nice repository of rhymes on the Buyjumpropes website. I went through them as well as other random sites, and found that, in general, jump rope rhymes or chants provide some fascinating insights into children and how they view the world around them. What mainly struck me was that children had a far more precocious view of the world then adults want to acknowledge. Consider this one:

My mommy told me,

If I was good-y

She would buy me,

A rubber dolly.

My auntie told her,

I kissed a soldier.

Now she won’t buy me,

A rubber dolly.

Then there was this rhyme that I heard children in my own neighborhood sing:

Cinderella dressed in yella,

Went downstairs to kiss a fella,

Made a mistake and kissed a snake.

How many doctors did it take

1, 2, 3, . . . . 

There is also an historical connection to some rhymes.  Consider this one about Benjamin Franklin:

Benjamin Franklin went to France
To teach the ladies how to dance.
First the heel, and then the toe,
Spin around and out you go.

This one is fascinating because it dates to the early 19th / late 18th century. I say this because of the terms “heel” and “toe” for dancing and because this had to be before Franklin was canonized as a revolutionary war saint, as even children were still talking about Franklin, the lady’s man. 

If you remember some jump rope chants, please share them with us. Let’s not lose them.

3 thoughts

  1. I remember a chant my childhood friends and I liked a lot:
    On a mountain, stands a lady, who she is, I do not know.
    All she wants is, gold and silver. all she wants is, nice young men.
    So jump in in, my [name of next girl to jump], and jump out
    my [girl currently jumping].
    It only occurs to me now, as an adult what lady on the mountain did for a living.

  2. ahhh, ya take me back, richard!
    in the schoolyard of st. rose of lima school (brooklyn), one girl would start jumping as we chanted, “the clock stands still while the handle goes around…” a second girl would jump in and jump around the first girl as we continued, “and it’s one o’clock, two o’clock, three o’clock…”
    mantras and exercise–oh how i loved to jump rope.

  3. Interesting observation Richard. Although I would comment that street play culture is alive and well in a good many parts of North America. However, I have noticed that skipping ropes have given way to scooters and skateboards for both boys and girls. Not an activity that lends itself to rhyming chants…but I sometimes see earbuds on young riders-perhaps rap is the evolution of the street play chant?

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