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I've been trying to google eenie meenie miney mo, and have found pages like http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=167023. What I was wondering is, in the original racist version, why does it say 'catch a (bleep) by its toe'? Is that something to do with lynching?

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closed as off-topic by jwenting, Pieter Geerkens, American Luke, choster, Kobunite May 25 at 21:19

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he who seeks racism in anything will inevitably find it in everything. –  jwenting May 25 at 10:48

1 Answer 1

up vote 3 down vote accepted

I wondered the same thing a few times so I looked it up: Eeny, meeny, miny, moe

I thought the original version was the one using the N word, actually the oldest known version (1815, New York) goes something like:

Hana, man, mona, mike;
Barcelona, bona, strike;
Hare, ware, frown, vanac;
Harrico, warico, we wo, wac.

It evolved into the more recognizable:

Eenie, Meenie, Tipsy, toe;
Olla bolla Domino,
Okka, Pokka dominocha,
Hy! Pon! Tush! 

My knowledge of old English is non-existent and I wouldn't be able to tell you what those two versions mean. But they don't seem to be racist at first glance.

There's two common verses that come after the verse with the N word, in that version:

If he hollers let him go,

or

If he won't work then let him go

Unless the "let him go" implicitly means "kill him" it doesn't seem to be about lynching.

They were probably "innocent" verses for the people who would have sung that in those days. (Just to be sure I don't offend anyone I'm not saying they're innocent by today's expected moral standards.)

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I learned "catch a tiger by the tail, if he hollers, let him go." –  CGCampbell May 24 at 22:39
    
Point of personal reference: I never heard the one using the N word until fairly recently. I grew up in Oklahoma in the 70's; a time and place where that word was er..in much more common use than today. My guess is that it is a local variant that is relatively (in)famous now due to how offensive it is today. –  T.E.D. May 25 at 1:52

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