Can Anyone Help with an Italian Rhyme Where You Caress the Cheeks (Possibly about a Mouse)?

Miss Fanelli wrote:

Hello, I’m looking for any help I can find in possibly identifying what I think to be an Italian Nursery rhyme/ paddy cake game my Grandfather used to play with us kids. Our family has long since been uprooted from Italy, but being the eldest granddaughter I have felt responsible for holding onto what traditions we could. Now as I’m about to wed and most of my friends are having babies I realize we’ve lost something here. Anything you can think of would be great, places to look for more information, names of traditional paddy-cake style games that Italians play, anything at all would be much appreciated. The following is what I remember.

When I was younger my Grandfather would play a version of ‘paddy-cake’ with me. He would take my hands into his, and while reciting some poetry (of what might very well have been gibberish), he would move my hands so that I caressed my cheeks, then I would caress his. Back and forth he would move my hands until a part in this ‘poem’ where he would say “Ah no!”, at this part my hands would always land on his face – followed by a line where he would say “Ah gooy gooy gooy gooygooy!” and I would wind up gently patting myself on the cheeks. As a child the delight was that I could never win; if my hands where over his this time, or if we started on his cheeks instead of mine, I was always the one getting my cheeks patted.

My Grandfather was Italian and from what I know his Grandfather was the one to move our family to the states from Italy. As I said above this might just be a poem in gibberish, but my father and members of his generation believe it might have been an Italian nursery rhyme about a little mouse. We have no clue as to the spelling of any of this so for the moment I’ll take my best shot at it phonetically. It sounds like this…

Ah moo-zha-zhill.
Ah-gazhty- a- ta
Ah- ya-tia-ta.
Ah no
ah gooy gooy gooy gooy gooy

Like I said this is a rough English phonetic spelling of something that as far as I know was in Italian. Then again Grandpa made it harder still by always changing the words or adding a line or two so that I always wound up clapping my own face. The long and short of it is this is about all I know…. any suggestions?

Thank you for your time
Miss Genevieve C. Fanelli

If anyone can help with this nursery rhyme, or if you have any suggestions to help find it, please comment below.


-Mama Lisa

This article was posted on Monday, October 29th, 2007 at 12:29 pm and is filed under Countries & Cultures, Games Around the World, Italian, Italian Nursery Rhymes, Italy, Languages, Nursery Rhymes, Patty Cake Rhymes, Questions, Readers Questions. 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.

94 Responses to “Can Anyone Help with an Italian Rhyme Where You Caress the Cheeks (Possibly about a Mouse)?”

  1. Joanne Says:

    Correction :
    Mesh a Michelle
    Cat a catelle
    Pana cazelle
    Ah May nu merod
    Mesha mesha mesha mesha

  2. Joanne Says:

    Meesha Michelle
    Cat a catelle
    A May nu merod
    Meesha mesha meesha.
    ( left out a line) lol

  3. Savina Says:

    My grandmother used to say this while stroking our palms (unsure of spelling):
    Ma nina beya
    Fata peneya
    Obidi bengata
    Gati, gati, gati (while tickling the hand).
    Can anyone help me with this?

  4. Monique Says:

    I found the rhyme below here. This is Friulan dialect:
    Adult: “Manìna bèla, fata pinèla, induà sòtu stàda?”
    Child: “Ulà da la nòna”
    Adult: “E se ti àia dàt?”
    Child: “Polènta e làt”…
    Adult: ”Gàti, gàti, gàtiiii”

    Adult: “Beautiful hand, perfectly made, where have you been?”
    Child: “At grandma’s”
    Adult: “What did she give you?”
    Child: “Polenta and milk”…
    Adult: ”Gàti, gàti, gàtiiii”

    I haven’t the faintest idea of what “obidi bengata” may mean

  5. Jan Says:

    I don’t know the Italian but it sounded like this and involved a cow and it asked the cow where it was going.. Phonetically: Moosha Mushella, atta tella, a do si guda, che sa vaca fruita di vaca!!

  6. Lynn Says:

    Mousche ma shell
    Pane ca shell
    Pane ricott
    Tooflabut tooflabut tooflabut

    There’s my phonetic version of MamaLena’ s little song

    And for the first 3 lines was nice stroking of the face and there’s little pats on the cheeks for those last three words

    I was told later by a relative a translation as follows

    Nice Kittycat
    Bread and cheese
    Bread and ricotta
    Patticake, Patticake, Patticake.

  7. Dano Says:

    Back in the 50s my Pop Pop said something like:
    Mooshay, mooshay, (rubbed my head) bonna mooshay, rubbed my face) bonna de gut (tickled my tummy)
    Spell check hated that!

  8. Angela Says:

    I was born in italy and sang our version with my children….spelling probably incorrect looked it up as i wanted to embroidery it on a blanket for my first grandchild.
    Mish mishelle
    Gatto gatille
    Che te si mangiato sa sera
    Pane e chicillo
    Mish mish mish mish

    – -kitty kitten
    Cat catty
    What did u eat tonight
    Bread and meat
    Mish mish mish mish

  9. Christina Says:

    I hope this conversation is still active— I’m looking for an Italian children’s song that caresses the checks too, but it begins with the letter P. I don’t have a clue about the spelling, but I remember the n sounding like a spanish n. It was something like Piedeñya. Driving me crazy.

  10. Karen Says:

    I remember this game well but can’t remember another one. My mother was from Naples region and father from Rome. My dad would take my hand and stroke it while saying “cui c’e una Bella ragazza..” It also had the words “pane” and (phonetically) “cachine”. It ended very similarly to the mooshi endings but there was no tapping of the faces. Does anyone know this? It’s driving me crazy. My parents have both passed and my daughters only remember the first line like I do.

  11. Karen Says:

    Please let me know if you know this. Thanks.

  12. Jo Says:

    OK – very similar experiences as all of the above but my Mum from near Benevento used to say this ( phonetically) whilst stroking cheeks:
    (Then patting cheeks..)
    Bechiafony Bechiafony Bechaifony


  13. Laurel Says:

    This is a shot in the dark but I found this thread trying to decipher something similar my great-grandfather (Italian) did with me, and now my dad does it with my kids.

    He slowly strokes their cheeks, saying (and this is how it sounds, phonetically):

    moo-zi ah

    pan-tay la

    kiss-ah mangia (“eat,” I know this part!)

    inesette (maybe?)

    pan-che pet

    frushna frushna cay-nay-na-vey! (this part is faster than the rest)

    Any ideas what the translation is in English? Or even what the real Italian words are?

  14. L Tucci Says:

    How funny! I was trying to find the translation of an Italian thing my dad would do and his granny cerone would do to him as a child. They were from Calabria/Muro Lucano. My dad would caress my face from forehead to chin saying “michell-a-mia” a few times then lightly slap saying “ah ah ah”. I do it now with my children and they love it and anticipate the ah ah ah tap with tons of laughter! It sounds like it may have been originally something from here but a little changed through generations. Sound similar to anyone? Gracie!

  15. Lia Says:

    in the Catanzaro province of Calabria, the kids’ cat song goes like this (phonetically)…while you caress a child’s cheeks slowly and then get faster…

    ti mangiasti u’ pescecheju
    perchi a mia non me ne dasti?
    Brutticheju, Brutticheju, Brutticheju!!!!


    Little cat,
    you ate the little fish,
    why didn’t you give me any?
    Ugly, ugly, ugly!


  16. D phipps Says:

    I learned it this way

    Moosha musheel
    Gato gateel
    Que hai mangiato
    Pan e quesil
    E non mi hai dato niente?
    Moosha moosha moosha
    It’s about a cat who ate bread and cheese and didn’t share it
    All said while patting child’s cheeks

  17. Linda Says:

    I just searched for this. My father was from Crucole in Calabria, Italy. He used to do this to me as a small child. I am surprised by so many versions! How wonderful that other experienced this wonderful bonding game. I always think of my father fondly when I remember it. I remember the tune he used but never knew the words. Thank you all for contributing all this information.

  18. Sharyn guarino Says:

    I’m so thankful I found this site! I have such wonderful memories of sitting on my grandpas lap while he sang that to me. Now I know why he nicknamed me “Pussycat:” I couldn’t be happier right at this moment!

  19. Gina DeSantis Says:

    My response is totally phonetic! My grandparents were from Cansano, Italy. So here it goes; in English phonetics:

    Moo Jhay ott; a pan a chach; a pan a vin, a la cantin, a zay bambene, a whoosh, whoosh, whoosh, whoosh. whoosh!

    The Italian spelling is atrocious, yet this is what I remember hearing!

  20. Bob Belickis Says:

    Lisa’s response back in October 2007 is spot on accurate. (Micio Miagolio)
    My Grandpa, from Benevento, used to do that with me over 60 years ago.

  21. Trace Viesta Says:

    Hi everyone,

    My grandparents are from Abruzzo, Italy and always used to do this rhyme. I saw that everyone has different versions but ours is:

    Moosha Moosha Mia
    Che cosa mangiavi ieri sera?
    Pane e pera
    Mooshy Mooshy Mooshy Mooshy

    My Moosha Moosha
    What did you eat last night?
    Bread and pears
    Mooshy Mooshy Mooshy Mooshy

  22. Steven Barbaro Says:

    My Neapolitan nonna would say this nursery rhyme to me and my siblings. Phonetically it sounded like this:

    Moosha moosheel ( motions of rubbing our cheeks)

    Gatta gatt’deel (cat, little cat)

    O mio du sta? (Where are you hiding?)

    In the bottaseel (In the little boot)

    In the bottaseel

    shesh shesh shesh ( Supposedly the cat jumps out of the boot and the motion is scratching our face)

  23. Debi Colosimo Says:

    I remember my father doing this!!
    My parents were from Colosimi, Cosenza.
    What I remember is a little different.
    Of course this phonetically (Sorry) but I thought It started out with,
    “Vashoots, vashoots, (cat in dialect?) or maybe it was mashoots
    A dove sta? (Where did u go?)
    De a nan (to grandma’s?)
    Qui t’a da? (What did you do?)
    …and I can’t remember the rest!!

    Anyone ?

  24. Maria Limosano Says:

    My mum had a Molise version, similar actions to what many of you described. The words were…

    Mush, Machin
    Pane E formagin
    Pane E ricotta
    Zubba zubba la Botta.

    To translate I only really new the middle lines, bread and cheese, bread and ricotta.

  25. steven moscato donatello Says:

    My Nana and Papa from Calabria did something similar:


    Mizzah Michelle (my Michelle)
    Katzahtelle (Little Kitten)
    Dozah stazah (where are you going?)
    Dozah bredeh (to see the priest)
    Kay deh dadda (what does he have?)
    Panne e cotta (bread and cheese).

    The last line was the same as someone above stated, but I only remember the english traslation:

    Will you give me some?


    If anyone knows the last line in phonetic dialect, please send it to me.

  26. Gina Parisi Says:

    I am so excited that I found this page. I just became a grandma and was thinking back to when my dad did this little game to me and my son. Although I only remember him saying 4 words before the patting of my cheeks I am sure all regions in Italy have their own version. It’s beautiful that we all have these great memories of our relatives. I have been brushing up on my nursery rhymes and wanted to hand down my dad’s version,. Here it goes..spelled phonetically.
    Boogety boogety boogety.
    I am curious if anyone else heard this version. The family is from San Bartolomeo in Galdo in Campania near Naples. I will definitely be coming back to this page. No matter if we find the correct way to say the rhyme or not, it’s the fun we will have with our children and grandchildren. Singing and playing in person not on a phone or video.

  27. Shirley DiRisio Says:

    I thought about this tonight and I thought I would never find it. I found this first try. I just wanted to cry because my Mom is not with us anymore for me to ask her about it. My Grandma had been gone for several years. It’s a fond memory. I hardly remember any of it. But I do remember my grandmother doing this and I always got a kick out of it. I always asked her to do it. I’m not realizing it’s about a cat. I wonder if she did this because she knew I love cats . Ty all for sharing❤️

  28. Janis Sansone Says:

    I don’t know correct spelling: Moosha moushella, atta tella, a dO se gooda, che sa vacca, fruita da vacca!

    It’s something like little one where did you go, to find the cow etc

  29. Marilyn Montano Says:

    My mother’s family (maiden name Marie Antoinette Anello) was from Catanzaro. My father’s family (Philip Ernest Montano) was from Reggio Calabria. I have been searching for information on this poem as well. Our version is Mushadisha, Dostajestabeshadesh, Mini Mini Minash, Mush, Mush Mush. I know the spelling is all wrong and I have no idea what it means. You take your hands and cup the child’s face at each word at the end you cup your hands and gently tap the child’s cheeks!!! Any ideas:):):)


    So the Nonna holds the childs hands while caressing first the child’s face then Nonna’s face while saying the below. The last sentence is the one whose face gets smacked by the two caressing hands.

    Mosch, Moschella (pronounded Moesh Moeshella) (Kitty Kitty)
    Dove sei stata? (Where have you been)
    Dalla Nonnina (To Nonna)
    Cosa ti ha dato (What did she give you)
    Un Biscottino (A biscuit)
    Dove lai messo (Where did u put it?)
    Ecolo qua (Here it is)

    I’m so excited also to have come across this site. I am an Italian South African. Nonna was captured as a prisoner of war in North Africa and brought to South Africa as a prisoner of war. Family relocated to South Africa. SALUTE

  31. Patrice Says:

    Wow … what a treasure trove I found while googling for my own family’s version of this little rhyme. Here is how I remember it, with the translation from my Napolitano grandmother and some phonetic spellings. Pretty sure that ending part was created by my great-grandmother, an American immigrant who loathed Stalin. The legend is that she visited family in Italy before the US joined the war and taught them how to say “son-of-a-bitch fascists”! Anyway, the rhyme:

    Muzh e Muzhelle (A cat and a dog)
    Pane e cazelle (bread and cheese)
    Tutti mangi (you ate it all)
    Nunca per mi (nothing for me) Yes, I know that’s not the Italian word for nothing, probably a dialect?)
    Perche o fascite? (why, you fascist?)

    With the first four lines, you lightly stroke the baby’s cheeks; on the last line, you do the motion of slapping the baby’s cheek!

    The other funny thing is that as an adult learning Italian, I never understood the word “cazelle” representing cheese. I just googled it and found that cazelle is indeed a cheese … from the French Pyrenees! Could there possibly be a connection? Or any other ideas on what “cazelle” might be?

  32. Estelle Sharpe Says:

    Funny how our tradition of an Italian rhyme seems to be a typical ‘Whisper Down the Lane’. Our phonetic version went like this:
    Mooshale (2 hands slide down cheeks)
    Bahbale (2 hands slide down cheeks)
    Fruista fruist (2 hands slide down cheeks)
    Ah….. sitalay, sitalay, sitalay! (2 hands pat on cheeks)

    Children always loved it!

  33. Pete B. Says:

    I remember this but do not know what it means or even if it’s pronounced correctly:


    The hands over mine rubbing down his face and then slapping gently on the last word.

  34. Nonna Says:

    My mother used to say something like
    Misha mash at
    Pane kashay
    Pane ricott
    Poofa la bot Poofa la bot
    Poofa la bot

    You hold the baby’s hands in your hands each side of your cheeks then
    slide them down your face
    And say first line then next line
    Do the same thing but this time do it on the baby’s face
    Next line go back to your face
    Alternate back and forth
    When you come to
    Poofa la bot you still hold the baby’s hands and blow up your cheeks like a balloon mouth closed
    Take the baby’s hands a slap push your cheeks while saying Poofa la bot and it will cause you to make a
    noise with your mouth

    Next you do it all over again
    But now you alternate and start with the baby’s face and end up with the baby’s face saying
    Poofa la bot Poofa la bot Poofa la bot 3 times saying Poofa la bot

  35. Nonna B Says:

    My mother used to play with me then my baby’s and I would with them too. She was from Abruzzi
    Born and raised
    I don’t know correct spelling but it sounds like this:

    Misha mashay ( mee-sha)
    Pane kashay
    Pane ricott
    Poofa la bot Poofa la bot
    Poofa la bot

    You hold the baby’s hands in your hands each side of your cheeks then
    slide them down side of your face (each side)
    And say first line then next line
    Do the same thing but this time do it on the baby’s face
    Next line go back to your face
    Alternate back and forth
    When you come to
    Poofa la bot you still hold the baby’s hands and blow up your cheeks like a balloon mouth closed
    Take the baby’s hands a slap push your cheeks while saying Poofa la bot Poofa la bot Poofa la bot it will cause you to make a noise with your mouth when you let the air out of your mouth by pushing on it
    Now start with the baby’s face and end with baby’s face and do
    Poofa la bot Poofa la bot Poofa la bot on the baby’s face
    Then start over go back to your face
    Alternate as many times as you want

    Next you do it all over again
    But now you alternate and start with the baby’s face and end up with the baby’s face saying
    Poofa la bot Poofa la bot Poofa la bot 3 times saying Poofa la bot

  36. Natalie Says:

    I’ve been looking for the translation for this forever! Maybe I wasn’t having luck because of the dialect differences. My grammy used to take the babies hands and put them on her face and say (phonetic):

    Mi sha perna
    Tu va statta
    Pane latta
    An mi? No stapatta?
    Brutta Brutta Brutta

    Any translations? I know brutta is ugly/bad and I know pane latta is like “bread in a cup” but I can’t figure out the rest!

  37. Ronald Says:

    I’m curious about another similar baby poem/game that my uncle would play with all the babies. I however do not speak or know how to spell any of the words but I’ll try my best. He is from Calabria. If I remember correctly he would take the babies hands and caress his cheeks with them while saying the poem:

    Moosha deeda (Moo-sha Dee-dah)
    De Monjaste (Day Mon-ja-sti)
    Ah Guchi nayda (Ah Goo-chi Nay-dah)
    Ah Mia (Ah Mee-ya)
    Domme De La Sante (Doh-meh De La San-te)
    Doopity Doopity Doo!

    I know that is probably far from correct spelling but that’s what my best guess. The parts in parentheses is just a better breakdown of the pronunciation. I appreciate any help from this down the line (even many years in the future).


  38. Adrianna Says:

    I am dying reading all of the answers! Sounds like we all heard the song but with different versions. Mine is the same cadence as many and involved hands caressing the cheeks until the last part where you tap the cheeks with each word. My grandfather from Catanzaro, Calabria would play it with me. To my ears I would hear:

    Bugia ma giel

    Ave nei gu genile

    Ave n’ este pa

    Choo, choo, choo

    Obviously not the right words, but I would love to know the original version and it’s translation too.


  39. Carol Says:

    My Grandma used to do something similar to us. She’d hold our hands, rub her face, then our face and at the end it was Mooshi mooshi mooshi.
    Our version sounded like:
    Moosha Mia
    Couma stata
    Kitta datta
    And a mama
    Then there were a few more lines until we got mooshi’d. We always got mixed translations.

    My Grandma was from Falerna and Grandpa was from Catanzaro. Both cities in Calabria. They came to the USA and went to western PA and had a farm. There was 5 kids that lived. Sadly my uncles died during the war. My mom and her sisters moved to Cleveland and lived well into their 90’s with my aunt just passing this year at 98! I love reading these!!

  40. John Says:

    I was just doing the following to my grandson.
    My mother used to do it to my children.
    her father was Sicilian. In this one you touch the part of the face you are reciting like so.

    fronda balada- we used to think it mean wide forhead
    ochi cutsa -beautiful eyes
    nasi nasita -nose little nose
    buchio bucca – mouth
    and decdec decd edc a – a little slap to the face

    Is any of this Italian? or Sicilian. Any one two month old Arthur loves it, especially the slapp tickling the face at the end!

  41. Hali Says:

    This is amazing! My great-grandmother and the rest of my family say what sounds like bugia (boo-ja) while stroking your hair or caressing your cheek. I have my two year old saying it and it’s the sweetest. I would love to know what it means and why some of us heard different things.

  42. Monique Says:

    John, you can find two more or less similar rimes on Biblioteca delle tradizioni popolare siciliane.
    I also found…
    Varvarutteddu (piccolo mento)
    Vuccuzza d’aneddu (boccuccia ad anello)
    nasu, nasiddu (naso, nasino)
    occhiuzzi di pirtusiddu (occhi piccolini)
    frunti di balata (fronte dura o spaziosa… attenzione momento topico)
    e te na timpulata.

  43. Nonna Rosa Says:

    Abruzzese family here… My Nonna now does it with my kids. Here’s what she says:

    Mish Mish att,
    Che se mangiate sta’ser?
    Pane e per,
    frisk frisk non e vero

    Translated to:
    Mish mish cat,
    What did you eat tonight?
    Bread and pear
    Frisk frisk that’s not true! (At this line the cheek petting becomes rough lol)

  44. Christina Says:

    The song game I’m trying to remember isn’t the one everyone is commenting about :( You hold the child’s hands and the words are spoken slowly when running the palms down your cheeks then the child’s. The word begins with a P. Phonetically it’s something like piedenia. Possibly Calabrese or Sicilian.

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