"My grandfather was from Scotland and taught my brother and I this counting verse over 60 years ago... I am sending it as it was said..." -Wendy

Notes

These lyrics are mainly nonsense. Though if you read on you'll find there may be some actual numbers in the seemingly nonsense words…

The explanation starts with another rhyme with the phrase "zeenty teenty" that's in the book "Golspie: Contributions to its Folklore" (from 1897) by Edward W.B. Nicholson. Golspie is a town in Scotland. Nicholson obtained the rhyme from a person called A.C.:

Zeenty, teenty, my black hen,
She lays eggs for gentlemen,
Sometimes nine, sometimes ten
–Zeenty, teenty, my black hen.

She [A.C.] pronounces 'zinty, tinty' and says the first word is sometimes pronounced 'sinty'.
"Zeenty teenty" is sometimes actually written as "scinty tinty". Here's what Nicholson says about the term:

…the 'Scinty tinty' of the Golspie version means 'One, two' – these doubtless being the number of eggs laid.

Here's a "scinty tinty" rhyme from Nicholson with some commentary he wrote about it:

Scinty tinty
heathery beathery
bank fore littery
over dover dicky
dell lamb nell
san tan toosh.

This is one of a very large number of rimes which are founded on the names of the numbers 1 to 20 in Welsh, probably the extinct Welsh of the old kingdom of Strathclyde. These numbers are in some cases still easily distinguishable: for instance in the above rime 'beathery' = the modern Welsh 'phedair a' = '4 and,' while 'dicky' = the modern Welsh 'deg' ='10.'

Graham wrote:

"My grandmother, born in Glasgow in 1900, knew the rhyme as:

A zinty tinty heathery beathery
Bumbaleery, over Dover
Ding dell, zamanell
Zan tan toosh.
A one-er, a two-er, a picker, a seven
A halibut crackit, a ten or eleven
A zinty tinty
Heathery beathery
Zan tan toosh.

As children, we would chant it while bouncing a ball off a wall. We loved the triplet rhythm that the consonants marked out, and would emphasize the Scottish accent by chanting it through clenched teeth. I still love it, half a century on; I can't see halibut on a menu without mentally adding 'crackit' and wondering what on earth it means."

*****

If anyone knows more about the meaning of this rhyme, or if you'd like to send another version, please email me. Thanks! Mama Lisa

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Thanks and Acknowledgements

Many thanks to Wendy for sending this rhyme! Thanks to Graham for sending another version!