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Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Great Debate: Is it Itsy Bitsy, or Inky Dinky, of Spider Fame?

For the better part of a year, I've had an on-again, off-again debate with my D.H. as to the "correct" adjective in the children's finger-play nursery rhyme, "The Itsy-Bitsy Spider" (now you know which one I favor).

My D. H. insists that the correct descriptive is "inky dinky," whereas I demur.  I vaguely recollect from my own childhood, either hearing "itsy-bitsy spider," or even more familiar to me, the description "eency-weency," referring to said spider's miniscule size, yet plucky persistance, and how he (she?) braved the violent rainstorm which "washed it out" after the arduous climb up the water spout, yet doggedly climbed the spout again, after the sun came out and 'dried up all the rain.'

Many, if not most of our American nursery rhymes originated on the other side of the pond, in England, for obvious reasons: the American colonists were British in origin, and brought with them the culture and history of England, and also of some other countries in Europe (e.g., The Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales are of German origin).  Often the nursery rhymes reflected history or taught a moral value.  For example, Mother Goose herself dates back to the 16th century or earlier, when people (mainly women) were accused of being "witches."  Frightening, devastating events that were not understood, were often attributed to "witchcraft."  Old Mother Goose, flying on the back of a goose, alludes to that era.

But coming back to our spider song, it seems that in the U. K. and in Australia, the verse is some form of "eency-weency," and in the New World, especially the East Coast, it's "itsy-bitsy."

As far as "Inky-Dinky" goes, all I remember is a little ditty that I heard as a child, I'm, uh, a bit embarrassed to say.  But for what it's worth, here it is:

Ball McCarty had a party,
All the kids were there...
Inky-Dinky left a stinky,
Blew him off the chair!
 And now, I have to give my D. H. credit for finding this video on YouTube, attesting to the fact that somebody, somewhere, did use the term "inky-dinky spider." It's kinda...catchy.



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15 comments:

Batya said...

We sing "the eentzy weentzy spider"

Morah Betsy M said...

Definitely itsy bitsy, but I was an east coast girl, and then an east cost mom.

Lady-Light said...

"Eentzy weentzy" (or eency weency-a variant thereof)is what I remember as a child, but when teaching toddlers and preschoolers I sang "itsy bitsy."

However, I, too, grew up on the East Coast, and I don't ever remember hearing "inky dinky." Doesn't matter. To a little kid, all of them are valid.
And may this be our most contentious debate, amen!

Anonymous said...

Spider fight! And the winner is: Inky Dinky, Inky Dinky ... it was even a hit record back in 1965. Made the charts!!! My Inky Dinky can beat your itsy bitsy any day!

NutsoZip said...

Hehe. You said stinky..

Anonymous said...

I was born in 1952 in Trenton, NJ. The only words I knew this song by was the Inky Dinky Spider. First time I heard Itsy Bitsy was from my grandkids.

My daughter-in-law treats me like I am some kind of idiot. She makes it a point that "we" sing Itsy Bitsy when the grandkids hear me sing Inky Dinky. I think there are more important that words to a cute childs song.

Besides, The INKY DIKY SPIDER was a number one folf hit! lol

Long live the Inky Dinky Spider!

Anonymous said...

I was born in 1952 in Trenton, NJ. The only words I knew this song by was the Inky Dinky Spider. First time I heard Itsy Bitsy was from my grandkids.

My daughter-in-law treats me like I am some kind of idiot. She makes it a point that "we" sing Itsy Bitsy when the grandkids hear me sing Inky Dinky. I think there are more important that words to a cute childs song.

Besides, The INKY DIKY SPIDER was a number one folf hit! lol

Long live the Inky Dinky Spider!

dvoss said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I'm 61 and grew up in New Jersey. We sand Inky Dinky. Never heard any other words to the song until my grandchildren. Of course my know it all daughter-in-law thinks I have lost my mind. Just recently on an episode of CSI Vegas a child was singing INKY DINKY spider.

Anonymous said...

Born 1948 in Ohio -- in the 1950s we were taught Inky Dinky Spider which was accompanied by hand movements of touching the tips of the fingers!
Inky Dinky

Britt Hart said...

I grew up in the mid-west during the 60's and was taught "the inky dinky" which meant "black and small"

angrymanspeaks.wordpress.com said...

Well; I've never ead the blog before but I certainly do care about the subject.
I grew up and my parents grew up in and around Baltimore, Maryland.
My parents were born in 1917 and I in 1958. My brother and sister were born in 1940 and 38 respectively.
All my life; from the time I was in arms my mother sang this to me and when I grew up and heard others singing the itsy-bitsy or eency-weency spider, it was very confusing. My Mom always taught me inky-dinky (meaning black and small). It still amazes me that this is not more widely known and used. I always assumed that inky-dinky was the correct lyric and the others were simplifications by those not sharp enough to understand inky-dinky as is the American want. Bow to the lowest common denominator etc.

angrymanspeaks said...

Also; to the person with the daughter-in-law who tries to make them feel stupid.
I would very quietly and politely suggest to her that perhaps it's her lack of intellect that forces her to use such a simplified version but you are sure that your grand-children are intelligent enough to understand the real lyrics.

Anonymous said...

Born in Philly in 1944, spent much of my early childhood in Florida between the ages of 1-4, when black folks still had to sit in the back of the bus..

One of the first ditties I learned as a kiddie was Inky Dinky. First time I heard otherwise was in the NYC metro area in the late 1960's, early 1970's when I had children of my own and learned that Itsy Bitsy was in vogue.

Always kind of thought the term Inky Dinky went the way of Little Black Sambo and the Disney/Uncle Remus/Bre'r Rabbit Tar Baby, coinciding with the civil rights movement in the late '50s early '60s.

It became political incorrect to say Inky Dinky. Never actually seen that written anywhere but it has been my theory forever...at least since I became aware of the lyric change.

Unknown said...

Found this blog after entering this hotly-debated topic last night, when I started singing "The inky-dinky spi-der, climbed up the water spout..." and my wife corrected me. "Itsy-BITSY spider!" she insisted. So, looking it up, I found a vast compendium of different opinions on the topic, and of course, this blog. But either half the people on the Internet are wrong (and usually are, come to think of it, unless they agree with me), or whichever version we learned in kindergarten is of course the RIGHT one. I was born (1949) and raised in Southern California, Los Angeles County. Miss Anderson was either a genius and knew the right words, or she was a malevolent, sinister witch twisting our heads with "inky dinky" instead of "itsy-bitsy." We may never know. Tsk.

 
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