Can Anyone Help with a Sicilian Lap Rhyme?

Antonio wrote:


I’m traveling through many sites trying to find an identifying word in Sicilian dialect to get the true words and the possible meaning of a little diddy my family was raised with.

My grandparents came from Sortino, Sicily in 1912, and all my cousins and their children were placed face up on grammas lap, and she would rock the baby and say, (phonetically written):

Puda pude
mama non c’e
giadu molino
bigata sacugino
gida di stupa
gida di mama
wena la giaulla
mooka mooka mooka

When doing mooka mooka mooka you blow bubbles on the baby’s belly, with giggly results. Through the years I’m sure we lost most of the meaning. My 91 year old aunt only knows the word “sacugino” meaning bag.

Anything you could figure out or direct me to would be appreciated.

Grazie mille,

If anyone can help Antonio with the original version of this rhyme, and/or an English translation, please let us know in the comments below.


Mama Lisa

This article was posted on Tuesday, April 13th, 2010 at 10:46 pm and is filed under Children's Songs, Countries & Cultures, Italy, Languages, Lap Rhymes, Mama Lisa, Nursery Rhymes, Questions, Readers Questions, Sicilian. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

8 Responses to “Can Anyone Help with a Sicilian Lap Rhyme?”

  1. Jimmy Says:

    Mamma non c’e = Mommy’s not here

    The rest seems like gibberish to me. Are you sure you’re remembering the way it sounded correctly?

  2. anthony Says:

    I’ve contacted my two remaining aunts, as well as three first cousins who all recite this the same.
    They think the word giaulla (jeeyalla} means loose woman.
    We think the mommy’s not there, she went to get a bag of something
    but can’t figure out the next phrases to get to “street walker”.
    All I know is that babies seem to love this diddy.
    Thanks for responding.

  3. Rt. Rev. Joseph Francavilla Says:

    I don’t know all the vocabulary in these lines but it seems to me this is what the children thought they heard. I will try to make some sense out of it. Hope it helps.

    Puda, Pude could be “pudia” the hem of a long dress that brushes the ground. In a figurative sense “under foot” as in “Aviri unu sempre alli pudi.” To have someone always under foot. Giadu could be either rooster or cat, depending on how one hears it. “Gaddu or gattu)
    Bigata (beata is blessed) sa cugino his or her cousin.
    Gida (“Idda” is she stupa is lint, especially the lint left over from combing flax. Stupa is also used to describe something said or used to trick someone. Gid (Idda “she of the Momma”)
    Wena (Vinni, it came) Giaulla is a sort of very tiny bird.
    Mooka, form of vucca or bocca meaning mouth.
    So the entire nonsense rime could be: Little ones always under foot, Momma is not here, the cat is meowing, blessed is his cousin, she of the tricks, she who belongs to Momma, the little bird came,
    mouth,mouth, mouth.
    It’s not unlike the rime “Cico veluto, sonami lu muto, sonami lo bene, ca l’angelo veni… Frankie Velvet, play the horn for me, play it well for the angel is coming… etc.
    All the fun is in the attention and the tickling.

  4. A.S. Says:

    It’s impossible to translate what you wrote because in my opinion is not correct. For example, you wrote “sacugino” (bag) when it should be “saccuccino”. Take it from a true Sicilian

  5. Fiona Sheppard Says:

    Hi Antonio

    My Nonna used to sing this song to me also as a child and would rock me on her lap. I now sing it to my son. I’m so glad you asked about it. My Nonna’s version was a little different. She would start with Oot’e Oot’ee I know not Italian words but she used to say what she remembered. The rest was very similar. Even when she was alive, we tried to work out the rhyme in English but it didn’t translate. The words seemed made up.

    Thank you for posting. It was a real nursery rhyme. My Nonna was from Vizzini in Sicily.



  6. Nittya Rizza Says:

    My family is Sicilian from the province of Syracuse. We sang a version of this that goes:

    “Pupitingè a mamma nun c’è è ghiuta o mulinu a cattari ‘n saccu cinu,
    cinu ri stuppa,
    veni la ciaula e tutta si l’ammucca”.

    Which loosely translates to “Daddy’s not here, he has gone to the mill to buy a full sack… Full of stuppa (im not sure what stuppa is but back in wartime they would go to the mill for the flour) Then came the hyena and ate it all up” and then you tickle the child at the end.

  7. Paul LaRocca Says:

    From Cannicattini Bagni, Provincia Siracusa:

    a puti pute (I like “you’re always under foot/hem)
    a mamma nun c’e’ (Your mother’s not home)

  8. Paul LaRocca Says:

    From Canicattini Bagni, Provincia Siracusa:

    a puti pute’ (I like “you’re always under foot/hem”)

    a mamma nun c’e’ (Momma’s not here)

    e’ annata o mulino (She’s gone to the mill)

    porta ‘u saccu chinu (She’s carrying a full sack)

    chinu di manna (Filled with food -or gifts)

    chinu di stuppa (Filled with other food -or straw/padding)

    vieni a chaula (Along comes the witch)

    e si l’ammucca (And she eats it all)

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