In the World

"Bricks and mortar will not stay"

I've always been immersed in music, and I never forget a song lyric. So a college friend used to call me "Verse Boy" and would ocassionally challenge me to come up with a hymn or folk song's lesser-known stanzas on command. "National anthem, verse three" he might say, and off I'd go with "And where is that band /Who so vauntingly swore..." (That one's a doozy, by the way. Compared to verse three, verse one might as well be "This Is My Song.")

Anyway, this week someone linked to an old Mental Floss post on subsequent verses of children's songs. A few were familiar to me: I knew that the little teapot was not just short and stout but also clever (though I think we sang "special"), and I knew that after you talk to the black sheep about wool you should ask around the barnyard about other stuff before you go. I also knew Ella Fitzgerald's riff on her yellow basket, and I think I could have come up with most of darlin' Clementine's story and at least a little of my Bonnie's.

I had no idea, however, that Bingo's farmer moonlighted as a homebrewer. ("He called it rare good Styngo!") Or that "London Bridge" offers a detailed primer on building materials and the risks involved. Actually, I grew up singing just one additional verse to that one: "Take the keys and lock her up," which Wikipedia's substantial article doesn't even mention.

Anyway, children's folk songs are fascinating. Have a good weekend.

Steve Thorngate

The Century managing editor is also a church musician and songwriter.

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