My grandmother Maria used to sing this nursery song to my children. She learned it as a child from her parents, who immigrated to the U.S. from the Napoli area of Italy, in the early 20th century. This recording was done in June 2004 when she was 91 years old.
My grandmother spoke Italian, but never learned to write it, so the Italian is transliterated. People graciously wrote to me with what they think is the correct spelling, and I posted their responses below the rhyme.
Che Te Mangiare
O Pane e casa
Nu mina Rata
Nu pugalia a mia
Frusti, frusti, frusti!
What did you eat?
Bread and cheese
You didn't give me any
Not even a little bit
Hit, hit, hit!
Maria wrote from Italy:
By chance I came across your interesting site where you say that your grandmother used to sing the old Neapolitan nursery song MICIO MIAGOLIO to your children.
I've read that you are looking for the correct spelling of this song in the Neapolitan dialect and then I want to suggest some changes as I think that this nursery rhyme should be written as follows:"
Ch'ai da mangià
Pane e case
Nu me n'hai date
nu poculillo a me
"Best regards from Italy.
Nicoletta DeJoseph wrote me in October 2005 in response to my question about the spelling of this rhyme:
"I had so much fun reading all the old Italian rhymes I grew up with in Italy. Now me and my mom have so much fun singing these songs to my brother's kids. My dialect writing skills are not as good as my speech, but I think it goes like this:"
che t'a mangiato
O' pane e o' caso
nun mena dato nu poco a me
frusta la', frusta la', frusta la'
JoyceAnna DiSclafani wrote me in June 2004, "What you have written, looks like a dialect which as you well know, is difficult to write out. Here it is in Italian:"
Che mangi tu?
Pane e cacio
Non me ne hai dato
Non prendere il mio
Frusti, frusti, frusti!
Rub the cheeks on each line. Then on the last line, tap the cheeks.
Visit Mama Lisa's World Blog for more versions. Please feel free to share your version in the comments there.
Recited by Maria Yannucci.
Here's a different version of this rhyme as sent by Emma who wrote, "My dad used to sing this to my brother and I when we were little, and now sings it to my one year old, who loves it. Dad is Italian, originally from Rofrano, Campania. Here are the lyrics:
Miccio Micello, (Kitty Cat)
Tu e la stato? (Where did you go)
Tu e la casa, (To [generally grandma's] house)
Chi te dato? (What did s/he give you?)
Pane casa, (Bread and cheese.)
SHIKKA, SHIKKA SHIKKA…
This was sung with dad facing me, taking my wrists in his hands and using them to stroke his cheeks and mine in alternate turns. The shikka, shikka, shikka at the end accompanied 'surprise' tickles (as Miccio Micello runs away with the food he stole from the house!).
Please enjoy this splendid performance of Miccio Micello, starring Sam C. and Sullivan McNaughton."
Thanks to Emma for the 2nd recording!
Thanks and Acknowledgements
Many thanks to my grandmother, Maria Yannucci, for reciting and translating this song, to JoyceAnna DiSclafani for providing the Italian version and to Nicoletta DeJoseph for sending the spelling in the dialect. Thanks to Emma, Sullivan and Sam for the YouTube and 2nd recording!
Thanks to Lila Pomerantz for the drawing!