counting out rhyme

Old Poem Saturday – Counting-Out Rhyme

CountingOutRhymeChances are that a counting-out rhyme is one of the first poems you ever learned by heart – “eeny, meeny, miny, mo…” is the version most common in American English, but there is one in almost every language. It has been hypothesized that this series of nonsense sounds and syllables are the remains of an ancient traditional counting system, mentioned often in connection with shepherds keeping track of sheep, although the hard evidence for this is a bit thin. One of the properties of counting-out rhymes is that they are constantly changing and evolving as a childhood game of selection and chance, so writing them down and fixing them is almost an exercise in futility. The version above is listed as being of Scottish origin, recorded as early as 1891 – although counting-out rhymes as a category are much older than that, perhaps by hundreds of years. For an interesting article on this in The Paris Review, click here. Photograph and composition by me. Have a great weekend!