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#1
Old 03-03-2003, 04:54 PM
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Does "Eenie Meenie Miney Moe" have racist origins?

I heard a story about 2 black sisters suing Southwest Airlines because of its seating policy in which a Southwest employee uses the phrase to determine who gets seating.
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#2
Old 03-03-2003, 05:08 PM
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The original rhyme had "catch a nigger by the toe" instead of "catch a tiger by the toe."

The lawsuit is stupid and will likely not make it to trial.
#3
Old 03-03-2003, 05:08 PM
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One version of this poem, very popular in the South in decades past went:

Eenie Meenie Miney Moe
Catch a n*gger by the toe....

I learned it with "tiger" replacing the n-word and wasn't even familiar with the racist version until much later in life.

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#4
Old 03-03-2003, 05:52 PM
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Interestingly, while searching, I found this about the movie Pulp Fiction.
Quote:
When deciding who to "do" first, Zed uses the classic childhood "eenie, meenie, miney, moe" rhyme, substituting the word "nigger" in for "tiger."
A more sensible site suggests the orginial was "niger" and therefore not racist. The term itself became racist and changed to "nigger."
#5
Old 03-03-2003, 06:07 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by AcidKid
A more sensible site suggests the orginial was "niger" and therefore not racist.
Not racist? Just what is a "niger"? I don't think you can catch a river in West Africa by the toe.
#6
Old 03-03-2003, 06:16 PM
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When I was a little kid in the early 1960s, I learned it as "catch a tiger by the toe." I never heard of the racist version until many years later.
#7
Old 03-03-2003, 06:17 PM
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I would point you to the penultimate post on the first page:

http://boards.academicpursuits.us/sdmb/...3&pagenumber=1
#8
Old 03-03-2003, 06:18 PM
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Re: Does "Eenie Meenie Miney Moe" have racist origins?

Quote:
Originally posted by Jackknifed Juggernaut
I heard a story about 2 black sisters suing Southwest Airlines because of its seating policy in which a Southwest employee uses the phrase to determine who gets seating.
That's not QUITE the version I heard.

On Southwest Airlines, w low-fare, no-frills carrier, most seats are not pre-assigned. Your ticket gets you on a plane, but it doesn't get you a specific seat. You don't pick a seat until you get on board. Once people get on board, they're supposed to pick a seat quickly and settle in.

As I heard it, on one Southwest flight, a number of people (including two black women) seemed to be taking their sweet time getting seated. A flight attendant, trying to speed along the process in a cutesy way, got on the intercom and said "Eeeny meeny miney mo, pick a seat, we've gotta go." Apparently, this silly rhyme had become popular among Southwest flight attendants- it was seen as a light-hearted way of telling people, "Come on, this isn't rocket science! Just pick a seat, ANY seat!"
#9
Old 03-03-2003, 06:47 PM
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The thread linked to by Mjollnir gives a great overview. And within that thread is a LINK to the actual court filing which makes excellent reading if you want to do the work to read the original. Sometimes beneficial.

The plaintiffs say that they were the only people not seated when the 22 year-old flight attendant made the remark..

The flight attendant says she directed the remark to all the passengers. She implied that there were more than the two plaintiffs standing. She had used the phrase on previous flights.

I can only guess the verdict will depend on whom the jury believes more.

Trial starts tomorrow, March 4.
#10
Old 03-03-2003, 07:01 PM
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The first time I saw the racist version was on a Monty Python calendar (just a few years ago). It was obviously a joke, but I thought that Cleese and the gang simply made it up as a parody of southern songs, or something. Interesting to find out that that was the original.

Oh well, I've never really liked it anyway.
#11
Old 03-03-2003, 07:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Walloon
Not racist? Just what is a "niger"? I don't think you can catch a river in West Africa by the toe.
Niger refered to the people from the river Niger just as caucasian refers to people from the Caucasus mountains. The use and meaning of the two terms has changed.
#12
Old 03-03-2003, 08:08 PM
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Trying to avoid a debate, here is part of the etymology of the word niger.
niger, Latin for the color black. According to Kennedy's research, it began as a neutral description and remained so in "dignified argumentation" of the 1700s. By the early 19th century, however, Hosea Easton, author of an 1837 treatise on black Americans, recognized it as "an opprobrious term, employed to impose contempt upon (blacks) as an inferior race."

Now back to the OP. When is the first use of the centuries old rhyme? Did it predate the change in the use of the term niger? If so then it's first use was not racist. Anybody have any luck finding the origin of the rhyme?
#13
Old 03-03-2003, 11:38 PM
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I grew up in the heart of Racistville, USA. You can guess which version I was exposed to.

When I first heard the "tiger" version (when I was in my twenties, IIRC!) I nearly cracked up thinking that it had only been recently cleaned up by the PC Police. Little did I know that the tiger version was as old or older than the racist one.
#14
Old 03-04-2003, 12:28 AM
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AcidKid. In the other thread, Steve Primo supplied that the original version of "eenie, meenie, .../tiger appears in the US in 1855.

The eenie/nigger version appears first in print in England in 1923, in KIpling's Land and Sea Tales.

That's not to say that the "nigger" version wasn't first used in the US. It just doesn't appear in print earlier than 1923.
#15
Old 03-04-2003, 01:04 AM
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samclem, Does the Kipling version use the word niger or nigger? Who wrote the American version? Were other variations of the rhyme in use prior to that time frame?

Since the earliest version uses the word tiger and considering the time frame, barring other evidence, I would have to conclude that it was orginially racist.
#16
Old 03-04-2003, 01:14 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Jomo Mojo
When I was a little kid in the early 1960s, I learned it as "catch a tiger by the toe." I never heard of the racist version until many years later.
I grew up in the 60's too, but it was just the opposite. The first time I heard someone use "tiger" I told them they were saying it wrong. (hey, I was just a kid. what did I know? )
#17
Old 03-05-2003, 12:15 AM
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By 1901, when Kipling wrote Kim, one of his best works, the word nigger was used repeatedly. Where he got it I haven't explored. 'Twern't the river.


My source on the US use is muddy in my mind. I'll try to clarify it the next day or so if I get time.
#18
Old 03-05-2003, 12:24 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by samclem
By 1901, when Kipling wrote Kim, one of his best works, the word nigger was used repeatedly. Where he got it I haven't explored. 'Twern't the river.
The British used it for any dark-skinned person, including those from India. In that sense, the OED has examples going back to 1857. America did not invent the word.
#19
Old 03-05-2003, 12:40 AM
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The US use of the word to describe a dark-skinned person predates the 1857 OED cite.
#20
Old 03-05-2003, 12:49 AM
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When I said "that use", I was referring to it being used by English writers and speakers for dark-skinned people from India.
#21
Old 03-05-2003, 09:32 PM
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When I was little, I learned the rhyme as "catch a MONKEY by the toe." But I guess "monkey" could be a euphemism for "nigger." I also remember one of the Mary Poppins novels where it was "catch an INDIAN by the toe."
#22
Old 03-06-2003, 09:30 AM
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Quote:
Since the earliest version uses the word tiger and considering the time frame, barring other evidence, I would have to conclude that it was orginially racist.
You lost me on that one. The earliest version uses the word "tiger," so it was racist? I think maybe I don't understand what you meant. Could you elaborate just a tad?

Thanks,
RR
#23
Old 03-06-2003, 09:38 AM
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Bizarre twist- in the New York neighborhood where I grew up, kids always said "Catch a NICKEL (???) by the toe."

Now, obviously, "nickel" makes no sense, but none of us thought much about it- after all, MOST childish rhymes didn't make much sense to us.

It was only years later that I figured out "nickel" was simply a sanitized version of the older, more offensive rhyme.
#24
Old 03-12-2003, 01:40 PM
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On a related topic: Remember "Ten Little Indians"? A few years ago I saw the classic Peter O'Toole film "Kind Hearts and Coronets" -- dates some time from the 1930s or '40s, I think -- and there's a bit toward the end where two of the protagonists mention "Ten Little Niggers." I guess somewhere along the way the song got bowdlerlized, at least to the extent that "Ten Little Indians" sounds less offensive, unless you're a Native American.
#25
Old 03-12-2003, 02:35 PM
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Ten Little Niggeres was the original title of the Agatha Christie novel, published in the U.S. as Ten Little Indians. At the end of This review of the book (under its current title And Then There Were None), there are the 1868 lyrics to Ten Little Injuns by the American composer Septimus Winner followed by the 1869 lyrics to Ten Little Niggers by Frank Green (about whom I found no information in a quick search).

I do not know whether Green "borrowed" and Briticized Winner's song or whether Winner and Green each put their own names on a rhyme that was already making the rounds with regional differences.
#26
Old 03-12-2003, 11:20 PM
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Quote:
ago I saw the classic Peter O'Toole film "Kind Hearts and Coronets" -- dates some time from the 1930s or '40s, I think
Would you believe Alec guiness?, 1949.
#27
Old 09-05-2013, 07:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thonjohn View Post
Niger is a country bro, Nile is the river.
I wish I could report this as spam and kill the post. Welcome to the SDMB!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Niger_River
#28
Old 09-05-2013, 07:30 PM
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Does "Eenie Meenie Miney Moe" have racist origins?

The Niger is one of the largest rivers in Africa.

Sneaky little ninjas.
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Last edited by Nars Glinley; 09-05-2013 at 07:31 PM.
#29
Old 09-05-2013, 07:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thonjohn View Post
Niger is a country bro, Nile is the river.
You realize you responded to a ten year old post?

And while you are correct that there is a country named the Republic of Niger, Niger is also the name of a river, Africa's third-largest.

Edit: Those ninjas are sneaky, aren't they?

Last edited by cochrane; 09-05-2013 at 07:41 PM. Reason: Too slow.
#30
Old 09-05-2013, 07:39 PM
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I can recall hearing this as a child growing up in Houston, Texas in the mid to late 60's, and what I first remembered hearing was "catch a n**ger by the toe, if he hollers let him go'.
My SO says that she recalls hearing the exact same wording as a child in the late 40's, while growing up in Washington state (Pacific Northwest).
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#31
Old 09-05-2013, 07:49 PM
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In any case, the person he was responding to will never know about it, sadly.
#32
Old 09-05-2013, 08:47 PM
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Since this is old and was raised pointlessly, I'm going to close it.

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