Twinkle twinkle annoying stars bleat "Baa baa" all the time

Did you know that the closing lines of the one of the older versions of Baa Baa Black Sheep went –

Two for the master,

one for the dame,

but none for the little boy

who lives down the lane.

And sometime at the turn of the century, some women suddenly realized something and went “Wait a nimit for 10 minutes” like Raju in MMKR, and decided that the master couldn’t get away with two bags of wool without a fight.

So the gender-equalized and child-considerate version of this rhyme, the one that we are familiar with today, goes

One for the master,

one for the dame,

and one for the little boy

who lives down the lane.

But people had nothing more useful to do since the 1990s, so they decided to invent political correctness. And since “black” has race connotations, some schools in the UK started teaching,

Baa baa rainbow sheep,

have you any wool?

Eh? Rainbow sheep? So would that be – One for the master, one for the trade, one for the fashionable guy, at the gay parade?

The interesting thing of course is that the original rhyme that dates back to the 13th century has no racial connotations. It was intended as a satire on a tax imposed on wool by the king. A third of the wool had to go to the King ( the “Master”), a third to the Church (the “Dame”) and the farmer (the “little boy down the lane”) could keep the last third.

But I am not interested in nursery rhyme trivia and political correctness. What interests me is the fact that there were several versions of this rhyme and each was influenced a little bit by the era in which it was set in.

So how could we derive our own version of this nursery rhyme? Perhaps we could, like the 13th century English folk, hint at our own frustrations with people in high places.

Baa Baa black sheep,

Have you any shame?

No sir, no sir,

it’s part of the game.

One for the minister,

one for his valet,

one for the office boy,

it’s bribes all the way.

Lewis Fry Richardson came up with a scientific take on this popular rhyme during the explosion of scientific breakthroughs in cosmology a century back.

Twinkle twinkle little star,

I hardly wonder what you are,

For by spectroscopic ken,

I know that you are hydrogen

And brilliant physicist George Gamow had this to say when Quasars were discovered,

Twinkle twinkle quasi-star

biggest puzzle from afar

How unlike the other ones

Brighter than a billion suns

So perhaps in our version, we could ask our celebrities to stop hogging the news while farmers still continue to commit suicides in several parts of the country.

Twinkle Twinkle annoying star,

why do I care who you are?

Up above in your flats so high,

Stay out of my news, I bid you good-bye.

Commenters. The floor is yours. Contemporary Indian nursery rhymes, and if they come out well, we could try publishing them like this.

32 Comments

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  1. That was interesting! Reminds me of my English master Mr. De Silva, who ‘taught’ us this rhyme in 8th standard! :

    “Jack and Jill went up the hill
    To fetch a pail of water;
    God knows what they did there,
    They came back with a daughter.”

    He even had his own version of Twinkle twinkle… I’ve forgotten the exact lines. It was damn funny though.

  2. Here is a political rhyme.

    DMK is sitting on the throne,
    ADMK is waiting for its bone,
    All the TMTKs and all the PMKs,
    Can put a fight together even if in vain…

  3. OK here r 3 of the top of my head.

    Flyover is falling down
    Falling down
    Falling down
    Flyover is falling down
    Please call L and T

    Hickory Dickory Dock
    Bush messed up the stock
    The Dow struck one
    Retirement account balance = none
    Hickory Dickory Dock

    Selvi Kalyani and Arasi run through the town
    Up Stairs and downstairs in their night gowns
    With as much sense as Play-Doh and crying round the clock
    Why is there no sanity on TV past 6’o clock?

  4. And as a courtesy to the 2 rhymes in the title:

    Bha Bha Bhajji
    Have you racial slurs
    Yes sir Yes sir
    But only for Symonds’ ears
    I know it’s taboo
    In the genteel game you fool
    But thats the only expletive
    taught in Jalandhar high school.

    Uncle Uncle, whats that car
    Its Tata’s Nano Experiment Yaar
    Much below other prices so high
    But to drive it in this traffic it must fly!

    BTW dont think I didnt notice the dig at Rajnikanth in the title. Annoying star who shouts baabaa! Now your just asking for it. Narayana! Narayana!
    LOL. And shouldn’t that be “Raghavendra Raghavendra!”

  5. Since you like Madras Bashai (a.k.a Tanglish)… here is a popular remix of baa baa balcksheep..

    baa baa karupuaadu
    kambli kidha?

    Kidhu machi kidhu..
    moonu koni kidhu..

    Oru koni annatheki..
    Oru koni thangachiku (or figuruku.. your choice) …
    oru koni machanku ange nikiran par!!! 🙂

  6. twinkle twinkle little star
    cant see you through the smog
    rhyme is what is needed here
    so an environment friendly one for your blog

    ayyo anna adikaadheenga!

  7. The fairy tales have been reworked these days too to political correctness too. There are no ugly stepmoms, vile stepsisters, no wolves in red red riding hood ( wolves need preservation you know).
    But I must admit that the wonderful animation tales for children of today of disabled heroes of Nemo, Happy Feet, Chicken Little are truly inspirational and heart warming.

  8. Great post as usual KA. And your commenters’ verses are just as entertaining!

    Agree with Maami. While there is a formidable body of theory that reads political and social satire into nursery rhymes, (god! how can u have children recite ring-a-ring-a roses! it’s a reference to the Black Death you know! And so on.) there are a few sane voices (like Gloria Delamar) suggesting that since there is no documented evidence connecting rhymes with actual events, the satire is perhaps read into them. Also, several nursery rhymes exist in uncannily similar versions across countries, which would belie their association with any one event.

    What’s more to the point-
    The purpose of teaching nursery rhymes is to introduce children to the sounds of a language in a fun way.
    A colleague once made up a rhyme to explain the sound of a bird’s call to a child. It was fairly early in the morning and the child had just woken up, so he turned his greeting to the little fellow into a formula to go with the call: What, Teddy! Up Already?
    Which rhymed well with the seven-syllable call of the bird.

    To understand and appreciate children’s verse one does not have to be a psychologist or a paediatrician or even politically correct. It is only necessary to have been a child once.

  9. Very interesting!
    It reminds me of a tamil rhyme which was taught to us during our childhood.It shows that men are supreme in a family and always they will be given priority even in food.here it goes

    Dosai Amma Dosai.Arachu sutta dosai.
    Appavukku nalu,
    Annanukku moonu
    Akkavukku rendu
    Enakkumattum onnu
    Thinna thinna aasai,innum kettal poosai
    Kodukka kodukka aasai,edukka ponal poosai

    Like one third was given to the king from the wool ,in a house also the maximum number will be given to the father the head of the family.
    Nowhere it is mentioned about the mother.
    Regarding mothers portion there is also a saying Arachavalukku AAttukkallu,
    Suttavalukku Dosakallu
    which means “none” as the left out item is aattukallu and dosakallu ie grinder and the tawa.
    At present the above has changed as women are now equal to men in all aspects and the hierarchy has changed now.

    Ashok: Very interesting RK. Are there any other other nursery rhymes from your generation?

  10. Having gotten that off my chest, here is my two cents. We sang a song like this in school:
    Oh my baby, my pretty little baby
    We’ll sit below the stars and sing
    A song to the moon

    Oh my baby, my little nigger baby
    Your daddy’s the the cotton field
    A’working for the coon.

    Sung by a set of 6 year olds in coastal Kerala.

    I know this is a clear case of political incorrectness, and only a cretinous mind would allow it to be sung in schools anymore. Having said that though, I’m not a 100% percent for needless political correctness in nursery rhymes. But if they hurt the sentiments of anybody at all in any manner, then undiscerning children should be spared of it.

  11. The gender irrelevant PC nursery rhyme:

    Jack aka Jill
    Went to The Hill
    To get a gender bender.
    They broke their back
    Had a panic attack
    And soon went six feet under.

  12. bikerdude:
    just like the best blues are said to originate from the slaves in the south of the US while they sang to overcome the tiredness of hard labour at the cotton fields, this little ditty of yours is perhaps what some Black Momma, picking cotton in the Delta, or sewing her quilt for her man ,would have sung to her little one.
    my minds a wandering:
    did vascodagama bring his slaves from his ship in here to kerala and let the rhyme be known???

  13. Richard Woodman authored:

    IMPURE MATHEMATICS

    Wherein it is related how that paragon of womanly virtue, young Polly
    Nomial (our heroine), is accosted by the notorious villian, Curly Pi,
    and factored (oh, Horror!).

    Once Upon a time (1/t), pretty Polly Nomial was strolling across a
    field of vectors when she came to the boundary of a singular
    matrix. Now Polly was convergent and her mother had made it an
    absolute condition that she never enter such an array without her
    brackets on. Polly, however, who had changed her variables that
    morning and was feeling particularly badly behaved, ignored this
    condition on the basis that is was insufficient, and made her way in
    among the complex elements. Rows and columns closed in on here from
    all sides. Tangents approached her surface. She became tensor and
    tensor. Quite suddenly, two branches of a hyperbola touched her at a
    single point. She oscillated violently, lost all sense of directrix,
    and went completely divergent. As she reached a turning point, she
    tripped over a square root that was protruding from the erf and
    plunged headlong down a steed gradient. When she rounded off once
    more, she found herself inverted, apparently aline, in a non-euclidian
    pace.
    She was being watched, however. That smooth operator, Curly Pi, was
    lurking innerproduct. As his eyes devoured her curvilinear
    coordinates, a singular expression crossed his face, He wondered, was
    she still convergent? He decided to integrate improperly at once,
    Hearing a common fraction behind her, Polly rotated an saw Curly Pi
    approaching with his power series extrapolated.. She could see at once
    by his degenerate conic and dissipative terms that he was bent on no good,
    “Arcsinh”, she gasped.
    “Ho, Ho,” he said. “What a symmetric little asymptote you have. I can
    see your angles have a lit of secs.”
    “Oh sir,” she protested. “Keep away from me. I haven”t got my
    brackets on.”
    “Calm yourself, my dear.” said our suave operator. “Your fears are
    purely imaginary.”
    “I…I” she thought. “Perhaps he’s not normal but homologous.”
    “What order are your?” the brute demanded.
    “Seventeen.” replied Polly.
    Curly leared, “I suppose you”ve never been operated on.”
    “Of course not,” Polly replied quite properly. “I”m absolutely
    convergent.”
    “Come, come,” said Curly. “Let”s go to a decimal place I know and
    I”ll take you to the limit.”
    “Never!” gasped Polly.
    “Abscissa.” he swore, using the vilest oath he know. His patience was
    gone. Cohsing her over the coefficient with a log until she was
    powerless, Curly removed her discontinuities. He stared at her
    significant places, and began smoothing out her points of inflection.
    Poor Polly. The algorithmic method was now her only hope. She felt
    his hand tending to her asymptotic limit. Her convergence would soon
    be gone forever!
    There was no mercy, for Curly was a heavysided operator. Curly”s
    radius squared itself. Polly’s loci quivered. He integrated by parts,
    he integrated by partial fractions. After he cofactored, he performed
    runge-kutta on her. The complex beast even went all the way around
    and did a contour integration. Curly went on operating until he had
    satisfied her hypothesis. Then he exponentiated and became completed
    orthogonal.
    When Polly got home that night, her mother noticed that she was no
    longer piecewise continuous, and had been truncated in several places,
    But is was too late to differentiate how. As the months went by,
    Polly’s denominator increased monotonically. Finally she went to
    L’hospital and generated a small but pathological function which left
    surds all over the place an drove Polly to deviation.
    The moral of our sad story is this:
    “If you want to keep your expressions convergent, never allow them a
    single degree of freedom.”

    Journal of Irreproducible Results
    Vol 27/Num 1/ 1981
    ISSN 0022-2038
    Sambarrice: That was hilarious.

  14. mami (If I may, KA): Yes we were taught that it was a “Negro spiritual”. Err again 😛

    It is a very pretty song though, except for the non-PC words. I also suspect it was composed for broadway, not by a cottonfield worker.

    PS: Of course since we didnt know what it meant we used to call each other Nicker baby (Malayalam for shorts – which is what we wore those days)

  15. I am hooked to your blog. Perhaps the most humorous/ satirical indian blog currently. Your blog on the political posters still generates chuckle whenever I see one by the street.

  16. rofl —“…..fashionable guy, at the gay parade?

    btw my roomie thinks me on some laugh grass having witnessed the rofl’s at wee hrs of night/morning..thanks to ur hilarious posts! 🙂

  17. ROFL @ Sambar Rice. Reminds me of my 12th standard where PSBB’s resident stud Devakumar (commerce teacher) encouraged us to write love letter in ‘math language’.

    Stuff like “Please don’t differentiate my love, I can’t function without you. Let’s integrate because the probability of us being apart is a null set. ”
    I know, my school rocked.

    Anyways, one more tamil rhyme i remember when I was around 9 or 10 my cousin in Trichy taught me.

    I dont remember how it started but it sort of went like –
    “enna tea
    rotti
    enna rotti
    bun rotti
    enna bun
    ribbon
    enna ribbon
    pachcha ribbon
    enna pachcha
    maa pachcha
    enna ma
    amma
    enna amma
    teacher amma
    enna teacher
    kanakku teacher
    enna kanakku
    veettu kanakku
    enna veedu
    maadi veedu
    enna maadi
    mottamaadi
    enna motta
    palani motta
    enna palani
    vada-palani
    enna vada
    aama vada
    enna aama
    kolaththu aama
    enna kolam….
    something something, I don’t remember it fully but it finally ended with GUMAANGUTHTHU!

    lol

  18. A friend sent me this one…thought it would relate better to your post than on my blog…

    Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall
    Humpty Dumpty had a great fall
    The structure of the wall was incorrect
    So he won five grand with Claims Direct.
    ************
    It’s Raining, It’s Pouring.
    Oh shit, it’s Global Warming.

    ************
    Jack and Jill went into town
    To fetch some chips and sweeties.
    He can’t keep his heart rate down
    And she’s got diabetes.
    ************
    Mary had a little skirt
    with splits right up the sides
    and everywhere that Mary went
    the boys could see her thighs.
    Mary had another skirt
    ’twas split right up the front
    …But she didn’t wear that one very often.
    ************
    Mary had a little lamb
    her father shot it dead.
    Now it goes to school with her
    between two chunks of bread.
    ************
    Simple Simon met a pie man going to the fair.
    Said Simple Simon to the pie man
    ‘What have u got there?’
    Said the pie man unto Simon
    Pies you dickhead.
    ************
    Mary had a little lamb
    it ran into a pylon.
    10,000 volts went up its arse
    and turned its wool to nylon.
    ************
    Georgie Porgie Pudding and Pie
    kissed the girls and made them cry.
    When the boys came out to play
    he kissed them too cause he was gay.
    ************
    Jack and Jill
    Went up the hill
    And planned to do some kissing.
    Jack made a pass
    and grabbed her ass
    Now two of his teeth are missing.
    ************
    Mary had a little lamb
    Its fleece was white and wispy.
    Then it caught Foot and Mouth Disease
    And now it’s black and crispy.

  19. I know this is not original, and has been doing the rounds for long, but this page somehow seemed to miss it, so –

    Starkle starkle little twink,
    Who the Hell are you I think,
    I’m not under what you call,
    the alcofluence of incohol.
    I’m just a little slort of sheep,
    I’m not drunk like thinkle peep.
    I don’t know who is me yet,
    but the drunker I stay the longer I get.
    So one more drink to fill up my cup,
    I got all day sober to Sunday up.

  20. LOL @ “Are there any other other nursery rhymes from your generation?”

    and LOL because RK is still very much from this generation.. he he…

    Ashok. The rhymes he mentioned are rhymes that are taught in Playschool’s and you get on today’s Children’s tamil rhymes cd’s..

    Infact if you check out the website for the primary school books (you can download the pdf versions of the actual book… kewl eh ?), you will get more such rhymes…

    One that my daughter adores goes like this..

    Amma inge vaa vaa
    AAsai muththam thaa thaa
    Elayil sooru poatu
    EEyai Thoora oattu
    Onnai pole nallore
    Ooril evarum illai
    Ennaal unakku thollai
    EEdhum ini illai
    Iyyam indri solven
    Otrumai endrum balamam
    OOdhum seyale nalamam
    Aouvvai sonna mozhiyum
    Akdhe enakku seriyam !

    (if you notices, it highlights the A, AA, E, EE etcof the tamil alphabets)

  21. Hahahaha!!! it was awsome readin this thing!!!
    really coool 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

    i think i know d poem thenga chutney is toking about ((if the thenga chutney i eat wid my dosa starts toking, itll b startling though)

    it starts like
    Biscuit biscuit, Jam biscuit
    Enna jam? CoJam
    Enna Co? Tea Co
    Enna tea? Rotti
    …..



    Enna kolam? Thiri Kolam
    Enna Tiri? Vilakku tiri
    Enna vilakku? Kuththu vilakku
    Enna Kuththu?
    Gumankuthu!!!!!!!!!!
    haha

    my friend hu shifted 2 delhi frm chennai taught this to me last year…
    We play it and bug all our frends at school 🙂 🙂 HAHA

    Its like there was an act passed that wanted publications to be ultra-clear. So these ones are like really cool ::

    Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water. Jack fell
    down and broke his crown; and Jill soon came tumbling after.

    New Version.

    Two young persons of opposite genders, proceeded toward the apex of a
    natural geologic protuberance. The purpose of their expedition was to
    procure a sample
    of fluid hydride of oxygen in a large vessel, the exact size of which
    was anonymously omitted from the record. As the male person
    precipitously descended, he consequently sustained severe damage to
    the upper cranial portion of his anatomy. A similar fate befell the
    female, who immediately after the male person, performed a
    self-rotational translation, oriented in the same direction, having
    been traversed by the young man.

    Little Jack Horner

    Little Jack Horner, sat in a corner, eating a Christmas pie. He stuck
    in his thumb, and pulled out a plum, and said, “What a good boy am I!”

    New Version.

    A young person of the male persuasion was situated near the
    intersection of two supporting elements at right angles to each
    other. Said person was involved in ingesting a saccharine composition
    prepared in conjunction with the ritual celebration of an annual
    religious event. Insertion into the saccharine composition of the
    opposable digit of his forelimb was followed by removal of a drop of
    genus Prunus.
    Immediately thereafter, this person made a declarative statement,
    regarding the high quality of his character as a young male.

    Mary Had A Little Lamb

    Mary had a little lamb. Its fleece was white as snow. Everywhere that
    Mary went, the lamb was sure to go.

    New Version.

    A young person of the female gender was the possessor of a small
    immature ruminant of the species genus Ovis, whose outermost covering
    reflected all wavelengths of visible light with a luminosity, equal
    to that of a mass of naturally occurring microscopically crystalline
    water. Regardless of the translational path, chosen by the aforesaid
    young person, there was a 100% probability that the aforementioned
    ruminant would select the same pathway.

    Three Blind Mice

    Three blind mice. See how they run. They all ran after a farmer’s
    wife, who cut off their tails with a carving knife. Did you ever see
    such a sight in your
    life, as three blind mice?

    New Version.

    A triumvirate of murine rodents, totally devoid of ophthalmic acuity,
    was observed in a state of rapid locomotion in pursuit of an
    agriculturalist’s uxorial adjunct. The aforesaid adjunct then
    performed a triple caudectomy, utilizing an acutely honed bladed
    instrument, generally used for subdivision of edible tissue

    Haahahaha!!

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