Sunday, April 25, 2010

Where the Naked Ladies Dance

There's a song with a tune I'm pretty sure you'd all recognize; but the words would be different. Every generation of children I've known has had their own version-- and I was quite astonished the other day to hear my mother sing the version from her childhood (the song had come up in the conversation):

"Oh they don't wear pants
in the Southern part of France.
They just wear grass
to cover up their ass."

It was the first (and I'm sure the last) time I will ever hear her use the word "ass."

What did they sing when you were a child? Maddeningly, I can't remember what we sang; I just remember the tune. I keep meaning to ask the kids I babysit for what they sing and forgetting.
If anyone knows that, too, would you post it?

In the seventies, kids sang:

"There's a place in France
where the naked ladies dance.
There's a hole in the wall
Where the men can see them all."

It would be sad if all the scheduled activities kids (much less time spent just playing, unsupervised, with other kids) and computer games and such made kids stop passing on these kinds of things to each other. If I could draw, I'd do a picture book about all the rhymes and games and things I've seen kids teach each other.It's fascinating to see how they change over the years; at least, to me. I guess that's why I write for children, not adults.


Martina Boone said...

I don't know that computers slow down this kind of sharing. If anything, I've seen kids post a joke or a rhyme or even bits of poetry and have it literally snap around the world via Facebook or text message. If something resonates, it sticks. But perhaps there is more competition for achieving resonance?

Elaine Magliaro said...


I remember the song your mother sang. I never heard the one you sang in the seventies though. I guess that shows my age.

We also sang:

I see London.
I see France.
I see (Elaine's, Libby's...) underpants.

Do you remember the song that began like this?:

You should never laugh when a hearse goes by
For you may be the next to die.
They wrap you up in a big white sheet
And then they bury you six feet deep.

Libby Koponen said...

nelsong said...
"There's a place in France
where the naked ladies dance
and the men don't care
cause they're in their underwear."

G-rated compared to your mother's version.

(Nelson, I re-posted this because Blogger censured it and then when I said "publish," put it in a bizarre place. Great version, thanks!)

Libby Koponen said...

Thanks everyone! Elaine,I do remember that song but with slightly different words:

"When you see a hearse go by, youmay be the next to die.
They wrap you up in a bloody sheet
and send you down about 60 feet.
The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out,
In your stomach and out your snout.
Where will you be in a hundred years from now?"

The other song,we had the same words.

The seventies version wasn't from my childhood, it was from kids I was babysitting for then. I don't remember what we sang but I know we did sing the song--the words just got over-written, I guess, by the seventies version.

Wendie O said...

Josepha Sherman collected stories and rhymes that kids tell each other. I forget when it was published -- in the 80s? in the 90s? I do remember being with her while she collected some of them.

Probably published by the same publisher (August House) as her Trickster tales. (doing Amazon search)

Here it is -- Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts: The Subversive Folklore of Childhood (American Storytelling) by Josepha Sherman and T. K. F. Weisskopf (Paperback August House- Nov. 1995)

Anonymous said...

My dad used to sing

All the girls in France
They wear tissue paper pants
And the pair she wore
They had a great big tore

Libby Koponen said...

Love it, thanks!

jword said...

The version from my childhood (Portland, OR, 1960s):

There's a place in France
where the ladies where no pants
and the men don't care
'cause they wear no underwear

Libby Koponen said...

Love that too. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

This is the '00 version:

There's a place in France
Where the naked ladie's dance
There's a hole in the wall
Where the children see it all
But the men don't care
Becuase they chew their underwear
Which is $1.99 (carry the 9 for a while)
Plus (stretch out the word "plus" for a while) tax! (say "tax" quickly).

Anonymous said...

In the 50's, we sang:
All the girls in France
dance in tissue paper pants,
All the boys in Spain
like to watch them in the rain.

The tune is "Streets of Cairo/Poor Little Country Girl," written by Dan W. Quinn in the 1890's.

Anonymous said...

In the English Midlands around 1960 our version went

All the girls in France
Do the t***y-wobble dance
And the girls in Ceylon
Do the same with nothing on!