Lore and Language of School Children
#Linguistics #child-originated culture #skip rope songs, #counting out rhymes, #parodies, #singing verses, #superstitions, #420
Linguistics child-originated culture, skip rope songs, counting out rhymes, parodies, singing verses, superstitions, of children themselves.
One by one, all the books I wish I had time to write get written. Sometimes, after they come out, I still wish I'd done them myself, but not this one. It is a model of folklore collecting and like so much of the best folklorism in all countries, it seems to have been done by a couple with no great scholarly standing at least previously and with no Scholarships, Fellowships, Funds or Bourses. If the Fords or the Rockefellers or the Bollingens or the Guggenheims had financed this they'd be passing it around the office right now and they'd all be as proud and happy as mud larks.
This is not a collection of material of the Mother Goose type folk poetry which adults teach children. It is all child-originated culture the skip rope songs, counting out rhymes, parodies, singing verses, superstitions, of children themselves. There is nothing like it in English that comes close to being as extensive. The work of Dorothy [name illegible] and Patricia Evans in America is more intensive, but so far they have not equaled the Opies in bulk, or in geographic range. Sixty-three elementary schools, scattered evenly across the British Isles from northern Scotland to Land's End, contributed material [illegible word] for several years. The Opies corresponded extensively with both students and teachers and visited a large number of the schools. Besides this, their acknowledgment pages list hundreds of individual informants and secondary sources.
It might be thought that most of these jingles and jokes and customs would be specially and peculiarly British. Indeed they are not. The hidden civilization of childhood is close to being at least Pan-European. The specific customs and poems are spread throughout the English-speaking world. Not only are they spread, they do spread right now. Parodies of the Davy Crockett song not only jump the Atlantic from Maryland to Shropshire, they leap the Pacific and appear in Australia within a couple months.
The child world is a coherent primitive culture lying right at our door. I do not accept the Lévy-Bruhl hypothesis. I know primitive people are not childlike but children are cultural primmitives. Some aspects of their ways find parallel in barbaric cultures, some in hunting and gathering cultures, others appear as traces in our own Neolithic. Irrespective of their values for culture history, they have a far greater value for us as being the immediate roots of contemporary culture. Moreover, since the activities of children are confined for the most part to very small ranges of age - sixth graders despise the games and jingles of fourth graders - many culture processes are greatly accelerated, and can be studied as we study heredity with fruit flies. On the other hand, children seem extraordinarily conservative: stale jokes, trick conundrums, bits of doggerel, can be traced back with little change to Elizabethan times. Also, childhood holiday activities preserve some of the most ancient rites and customs of the European peoples.
A discussion of the poetic virtues of these jingles would have to be complex and subtle; it would run to many pages. Sufficient to say that they embody not only psychological and historical sources of poetry, but in many instances exhibit the fundamentals of poetic stimulus and response. One of the best collections of this type is Claude Roy, Trésor de la Poésie Populaire, (Treasury of French popular poetry) published by Seghers, which also includes the bulk of French Mother Goose poetry. Roy himself has been greatly influenced by such poetry, but so has almost every other French poet of importance from Supervielle to Yves Bonnefoy. We know the great prevalence of such influences in German literature, beginning of course with Goethe. Faust itself, shall we say, is one enormous skip rope and counting out rhyme? W.H. Auden introduced the mode into contemporary English poetry, but it never seems to have properly caught on. Possibly American poets do not care to use this material, but even so they should know it thoroughly. And so should children. There are a couple of scandalous chapters on pranks and jokes which my two little girls devoured with glee.
As a concluding note, I should mention that the Opies are also the authors of The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes and The Oxford Nursery Rhyme Book. I would say that these three books are an essential part of the library for every student of culture, anthropologist or other, and for every serious student or practitioner of the art of letters. KENNETH REXROTH April 1960
This review of Iona and Peter Opie's The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren (Oxford University Press, 1959) originally appeared in The Nation (9 April 1960). Copyright 1960. Reprinted here by permission of the Kenneth Rexroth Trust.
First published in 1959, Iona and Peter Opie'sThe Lore and Language of Schoolchildren is a path breaking work of scholarship that is also a splendid and enduring work of literature. Going outside the nursery, with its assortment of parent-approved entertainments, to observe and investigate the day-to-day creative intelligence and activities of children, the Opies bring to life the rites and rhymes, jokes and jeers, laws, games, and secret spells of what has been called "the greatest of savage tribes, and the only one which shows no signs of dying out."
“YOLO,” the acronym for “you only live once,” which the OED defines as “used to express the view that one should make the most of the present moment without worrying about the future (often as a rationale for impulsive or reckless behaviour).”
Several times each year, the editors of the Oxford English Dictionary add new words they deem worthy of inclusion based on both FOMO and how they see the English language evolving. Some of the new entries are a bit more salacious than others. Indeed, we are too prudish to publish some of them, but many of the newcomers are important to travelers. Others are connected to Roald Dahl and his writings, including frightsome, scrummy, scrumptious, splendiferous, and human bean.
Among the more provocative words you can now feel free to use is “biatch,” along with its variants beeotch, beoch, beotch, beyotch, biotch, biyotch, and beech. Still thinking “fuhgeddaboudit”? Feel free to use that word going forward as the interjection, which comes from “forget about it!”, has gained legitimacy as well.
The latest derp heard on the street is that, for many of the geek chic, digital detoxing is causing FOMO and emoji withdrawal. Srsly. I wasn’t surprised by any of this, however, given that my party turned into an omnishambles due to a lack of guac although a lot of people wearing jorts and sporting fauxhawks were twerking to the music. If you had trouble understanding part or all of the above, please take note that the 11 words or phrases that might have given you pause are just some of the latest entrants to the Oxford English Dictionary. Squee!
The origin of the term 420, celebrated around the world by pot smokers every April 20th, has long been obscured by the clouded memories of the folks who made it a phenomenon. A 420 back story: “420 started somewhere in San Rafael, California in the late '70s. The term has its roots in a lost patch of cannabis in a Point Reyes, California forest. Just as interesting as its origin, it turns out, is how it spread. A group of five San Rafael High School friends known as the Waldos - by virtue of their chosen hang-out spot, a wall outside the school - coined the term in 1971. Waldo Steve, Waldo Dave and Dave's older brother, Patrick, and confirmed their full names and identities, which they asked to keep secret for professional reasons. (Pot is still, after all, illegal.) One day in the Fall of 1971 - harvest time - the Waldos got word of a Coast Guard service member who could no longer tend his plot of marijuana plants near the Point Reyes Peninsula Coast Guard station. A treasure map in hand, the Waldos decided to pluck some of this free bud. The Waldos were all athletes and agreed to meet at the statue of Loius Pasteur outside the school at 4:20, after practice, to begin the hunt. "We would remind each other in the hallways we were supposed to meet up at 4:20. It originally started out 4:20-Louis and we eventually dropped the Louis," Waldo Steve tells the Huffington Post. The Grateful Dead picked up and moved to the Marin County hills - just blocks from San Rafael High School. "Marin Country was kind of ground zero for the counter culture," says Steve. The Waldos had more than just a geographic connection to the Dead. Mark Waldo's father took care of real estate for the Dead. And Waldo Dave's older brother, Patrick, managed a Dead sideband and was good friends with bassist Phil Lesh. Patrick tells the Huffington Post that he smoked with Lesh on numerous occasions. He couldn't recall if he used the term 420 around him, but guessed that he must have. <snip>