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Memories of Pennsylvania Dutch nursery rhymes continue

Reader Faye Harbold of North Codorus Township has a brother, Dr. Geo Thomas, who was studying Pennsylvania Dutch back in 2011. His teacher at the time was Alice Spayd of Hamlin, Lancaster County, and Faye was able to share some of Alice’s notes about the Pennsylvania Dutch nursery rhyme “Reidi, Reidi, Geili,” as seen here.

Way back in 2011, longtime commenter Dianne had asked a question about a Pennsylvania Dutch nursery rhyme.

The rhyme is often sung to small children while bouncing them on the knee of a parent or grandparent, and loosely translates to something about riding a horse.

In April of 2011, I shared some reader translations and memories of the rhyme, but I had not revisited the topic since.

Since then, though, I had received a few more notes and questions and wanted to bring this up again in order to share those!

A reader named Dr. L wrote, “My grandmother (and mother) used the same ‘bouncy-on-knees’ rhyme.” He noted that theirs roughly translated to the following:

Ride, ride a horse,
One mile an Hour,
Come to the bridge,
The bridge falls in!

“At which point,” Dr. L said, “they’d separate their knees and we’d get ‘dropped’ toward the floor… with great laughter and giggles. That last line was something like ‘Blumpf schmall schnunners.’ Quite possibly my grandmother made up the bridge and falling in parts.”

These are more of the notes by Alice Spayd of Hamlin, Lancaster County, about the Pennsylvania Dutch nursery rhyme “Reidi, Reidi, Geili.”

Reader Cheri noted, “So happy I found this. My great-grandmother is the one we reference for our family rhyme. We, too, are missing words.”

Her version, she writes out, is like this:

Reide, reide geili
Alli schunde de meili
Alli schunde de _____
(have to go phonetic here) Gone to feend de wienerhaus
Bloomp, bloomp, lithrum, reck.

That last part, she notes, is when the child is dropped down between the singer’s legs, just as Dr. L describes.

“If anyone can correct this for me I would greatly appreciate it,” Cheri noted.

A reader named Nick Deysher says, “It is interesting to read all of these variations. There is a recording from 1955 from Smithsonian Folkways Records by George Britton. It was helpful for me to understand more of the words I learned from my grandmother growing up.”

Nick noted that his family’s version goes like this:

Reide, reide Geili
Alli Schtunde Meili
“Alla walla?” Wartshaus
Trink ein glas a bier
Oops, fall in der grover (the child falls through the lap)

Finally, I heard two requests for Dutch nursery rhymes that may or may not be derivatives of this same one.

Paula Johnson wants to know, “I would like the words to the Dutch nursery rhyme ‘Sip sap serdikin,’ that ends with the horse galloping, ‘wobika wobika.'”

And Polly Graham asks, “My grandfather used to play a nursery rhyme game with me that said something like (phonetically) ‘mussmangowa eisen schlowa’ and ended with him ticking the bottoms of my feet and saying ‘growla growla growla.’ Does anyone know this nursery rhyme? I know it is quite old. Thanks.”

I’d be very interested to hear more about these rhymes as well, whether they’re derivatives of the horse or separate rhymes. Any details on spellings and words are good too; as you can see most of those who have written in are using phonetic spellings since the rhyme was heard, not seen, and I’m definitely interested in more details!

Have questions or memories to share? Ask (or Tell) Joan using the form at right. I’ll attempt to answer or share them in a future “Ask Joan” column on this blog. I get a large volume, but I will feature three each week and answer as many as possible!