Counting-out Rhyme called Zinty Tinty


Rhiannon Daymond-King sent me a counting-out rhyme called “Zinty Tinty” with this note:

“I was taught a counting rhyme by my father, who said it came from his mother. Her mother was Swedish, so he thought it was in Swedish (or possibly Norwegian given that the part of the country she was from used to be part of Norway). Looking on the internet I have found several Scottish versions, and I know we have some Scottish ancestry, so perhaps it comes from there. Dad always thought it was something to do with Humpty Dumpty, I’m not sure why, perhaps because it was said with a similar tune.

I learned it as:

Zinty tinty, figgery fell,
Ell dell dominell,
Zutty putty toory rope,
Am tam toozy joke,
You are out!
Eerie oorie, eerie oorie,
You are out!

From what I’ve seen: This is an interesting mix because it includes bits from a rhyme from the Opies (authors of The Oxford Book of Nursery Rhymes):

‘Zeenty teenty, Heathery bethery
Bumful oorie, Over Dover
Saw the King of easel diesel
Jumping over Jerusalem wall.
Black fish, white trout,
Earie, oarie, you are out.’

And also the only one that I have seen which is closest is:

‘Eenerty, feenerty, fickerty, feg,
El, del, domun, eg,
Irky, birky, story, roc,
An, tan, toosh, joc.’

(Learned in 1850 at Inverness by Miss Joass, who recited it in 1892.)

Hope this interests you and if you find a version with correct spelling that people can agree on… I’d love to know it.

-Rhiannon Daymond-King


If anyone knows more about this rhyme or if you know a similar one, please share it with us below.


Mama Lisa

This article was posted on Sunday, April 1st, 2012 at 4:00 pm and is filed under Counting-out Rhymes, Counting-out Rhymes, Countries & Cultures, England, English, English Nursery Rhymes, Languages, Norway, Norwegian, Norwegian Nursery Rhymes, Nursery Rhymes, Questions, Readers Questions, Rhymes by Theme, Scotland, Scottish, Scottish Nursery Rhymes, Sweden, Swedish, Swedish Nursery Rhymes. 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.

28 Responses to “Counting-out Rhyme called Zinty Tinty”

  1. Katherine Says:

    “Eenerty feenerty fickerty feg”

    I have come across many variations of this rhyme over the years, there are many local variations and as far as I can tell it varies, not just from region to region, but within a region from school to school.

    This version was taught to me by my grandmother who grew up in Kirriemuir, Angus (Scotland). I use approximate spellings because I’m not sure how much of this rhyme contains actual Scots words, some I think are corruptions of acutal Scots words made for the sound. Also, this is recited with a strong Angus accent which can make the spelling of the word very different to the sound.

    Eenerty, feenerty, fickerty, feg,
    Ell, Dell, Domen egg.
    Ilka Burkie stole a lock,
    An, tan, twos jouk,
    Jouk oot, jouk in,
    Jouk around the heckle-pin,
    I’ve a crusie, I’ve a creel,
    I’ve a pokie fu’ o’ meal, (fu’ = full)
    I’ve a doggie at the door,
    One, two, three, four.

    EENERTY -word traditionally used in counting rhymes,
    FICKERTY – possibly a corruption of fickly – puzzling
    FEG – a thing of no value OR a manouver in a game of marbles
    ELL – an old unit of measurement (usually for cloth) (37.0578 inches)
    DELL – a goal or target in boys games
    DOMEN EGG – ??? corruption of DOMINIE (old contemptious name for a teacher)
    ILKA – each
    BIRKIE – a lively young person OR a card game (Begger my neighbour)
    AN – ?? one
    TAN – ?? ten
    JOUK – to jump or duck
    HECKLE-PIN – carding comb
    CRUSIE – old fashioned type of open rush lamp
    CREEL – type of basket (fishing)
    POKIE – corruption of POKE – a paper bag
    MEAL – most likely oatmeal

  2. Ken Macfie Says:

    My father taught us this rhyme as children. He was born in Oban in 1927 and I never heard it used by any of my own generation in the Glasgow area. His version went
    ” eenty teenty figgery fell
    Ell dell doman ell
    Urkey turkey torry rope
    Am tam toory jock
    You are it”

  3. Lisa Says:

    Thanks for sharing your version Ken! We added it to our Scottish songs and rhymes pages.

  4. Mike Says:

    My mother grew up in Duluth Minnesota US, a city full of Scots and Swedes. She had a similar schoolyard rhyme, which I will give phonetically.
    Into minty tibbity fig
    A dee a doh a Dominig
    Ala pala tuna tika
    Out goes you!

  5. Jane Says:

    Zeenty, teenty, figgery fell
    Ell, dell, dominell;
    Urky, purky tawry rope
    An, tan, toozie joke,
    Eerie-oarie, eerie-oarie,
    You are out.

    This is the version which my mother, born in Glasgow in 1911, taught me.

  6. Lisa Says:

    That’s great Jane! would you like to recite it for us? :)

  7. Graham Says:

    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 emphasise 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.

  8. Alastair Says:

    My mother born in Glasgow 1918 knew the same version as Jane’s mother, although it began with ‘eenty’, rather than ‘zeenty’.

    In later years, I thought that it might in some way relate to the shepherd’s counting method ‘yan tan tethera’ (see Wikipedia).

  9. Mairi Robertson Says:

    A Rinty Tinty
    Figury Fell
    Els Dell dominel
    Urky Purky Toozy Joke
    You are out.

    I think it is from a play but don’t know which one.

  10. Julia Haynes Says:

    I am thrilled to find this site. My father, who would have been 92 this year grew up in Glasgow and my brother and I loved him reciting this rhyme which I have never forgotten. I have often asked people if they have heard it and no one I know ever has. For some reason it always soothed crying babies if sung in their ear!

    Zinty tinty figgery fell
    Ell dell dominel
    Arky parky tawry rope
    An tan toozy joke

  11. Linda Hockley Says:

    My Grandma, from Aberdeen, taught me this rhyme when I was small. Her version was:
    Eenerty, feenerty, figerty, feg
    El, del, Domin, egg
    Erkie, berkie stole a rock
    An, tan, toose, jock.

    Given the Aberdeen accent, and memory dating back 60+ years, not sure of spelling, but I think that’s close. Nannie was born in 1882.

  12. John Says:

    Hey, just was thinking about this rhyme and googled zeenty teenty and found this thread. My mother used to recite the same

    Zeenty teenty figery fell
    Ell dell dominel
    Irky purky torry rope
    San tan toosie joke
    Eerie orrie you are out

    She was born in Glasgow in 1952 and we still live in Glasgow but unlike lots of other oral tradition stuff it seems to have died out – you don’t hear it any more.

    I wondered if it could be part of some shepherd counting rhyme like yain Tain tether mether mumph?

    Anyway it’s exiting to see other people talking about it and the variation from passing stuff on orally.

  13. Shona Says:

    I’m fascinated by the variations of this rhyme. My mother was born (1922) and brought up in Glasgow, an she used to recite it to us, but with an added bit on the end:

    Inty tinty figgery fell
    Ell dell dominell
    Acky tacky tawny rope
    An tan toosy joke
    Joke (Jock?) went out to buy some eggs
    Who did he meet but Bandy-legs
    Bandy-legs and Tippitytoes
    That’s the way the story goes
    You are it!

  14. Lisa Says:

    That’s great Shona!

  15. Julie Says:

    Our Grandma was born in Glasgow in 1901 and came to Australia as a war bride in 1919. She always sang this ditty to all her children and then her grandchildren. This is our families version:

    Zinnty tinnty figgery fell
    arn darn drommey dell
    arky parky torry rope
    arn tarn toosy jock
    jock went out to buy some eggs
    who did he meet but bandy legs
    bandy legs and tippity toes
    thats the way the ladies go

    Julie (in Australia)

  16. Lisa Says:

    That’s great Julie! would you like to sing it for us?

  17. jenny roper Says:

    My Grandad from Fife taught me this version in the 70s excuse the spellings never written it before.

    Hinty tinty
    Heathery methery
    Bamfalourie, shoot the toorie
    Apple Davie, currant tam
    Sugar Ellie, famie Ann
    Black fish, white fish
    All the same troot
    Hinty tinty you are oot!

  18. Lisa Says:

    I love it Jenny!

  19. Neil Buist Says:

    Our version from the 1800s is pretty close
    Eenerty, Feenerty, Fickerty, Feg
    El Dell Dome an egg
    Iky birky starry rock
    An tan toose jock

    It did go on more
    but not close to any of the above versions
    We were led to believe that it was an old Scottish Highland method of counting sheep
    But it does not seem to have any affinity with the Gaelic

  20. Tom Conti Says:

    Here’s another from Glasgow taught me by the writer George Byatt
    Zinty tinty dithery mithery
    Bumbleeril over dover
    Ding dell ham’n el
    Toodalum toodalum twenty toosh
    A one or a two or a ten or eleven
    I’ll be crackit
    Ding dang musky dan.

    Don’t ask!

  21. Bernard Says:

    My dad, born 1896 in Alloa taught me:

    Eenty teenty figgety (figerty?) fell
    El del domerell
    Arky parky tarry rope
    Aun taun toosy joke (Jock?)

  22. Lisa Says:

    Mary Rough wrote…

    The version my father taught me when I was a young child:

    Zinty tinty halagalum the cat’s gone out to hae some fun.
    Zinty tinty halagalum.
    Zinty’s no in . . .

    Unfortunately I don’t remember any more of it.

  23. Neil Buist Says:

    I wondered if this might have originated from the Vikings but ther words for counting are nowhere similar to any of these versions.
    I then thought that there is no need to count to the base 10; why not another number . I wondered if 4 was possible since there are definite cadences to all thee versions; perhaps as a way of counting on fingers. Also note that the first and third couplets are similar in parsing as are the second and fourth [??? Left and right hands??].
    Line 1. Enerty[3], fenerty, [3, fickerty,[3] feg,[1]. the numbers show the syllables.
    Line 3, Irky, [2], birky,[2], starry, [2], rock, [1]

    Line 2. Ell, [1], dell[1], doman,[2], egg,[1]
    Line 4. An,[1], tan,[1]toose,[1], jock,[1].
    Any comments anyone????????

  24. graham cater Says:

    Mother born in Glasgow 1922…. she recited this to us when we were children,
    – never did get to bottom of where it originated!
    Seems Glasgow/Scotland, before & around 1920’s is a common thread, going by the replies so far.
    My memories of how it went, for what it’s worth ! …….

    “Eenty feenty figgerty fell
    El del dominel
    Arky parky tarry rope
    An tan toosy joke (Jock?)”

  25. Jo Says:

    My Mother was born in Edinburgh and this is the version she taught us-
    Eeenty Teenty
    Heathery Bethery
    Over Dover
    Ding Dell
    Roman Elle
    An Tan
    Tousle Jock
    You Are Out!

  26. Anne Hunter Says:

    Taught to me by my uncle, born Renfrew, Scotland c.1906:

    Eenty teenty figgery fell
    Ell dell dominell
    Arky parky tarry rope
    An tan toozie joke
    You are out.

    My family also has roots in Dunblane, Perthshire, and interestingly this version seems very close to Bernard’s Alloa one, above, Alloa and Dunblane being only a few miles apart.

    As a wee girl I thought my Aunt Anne (his wife) was my An Tan, and the rhyme was about her 🙄.

    Also very similar to several of the others quoted above. A lot of folk came from further up Scotland to the central belt for work 100 and more years ago, and I expect this rhyme was brought with them. I’ll bet it has its roots in a now lost Celtic language, which we’ll never know as they left plenty of wonderful art, but no written records!

    However, as a child in Renfrew, b.1948, my friends and I didn’t use it playing, we used “Eeny meeny miney mo…. etc.” complete with the then commonly used but now correctly recognised as racist and completely unacceptable ‘n’ word. Hadn’t a clue back then what it meant, and I’m now horrified at the way we used to sing-song it so innocently.

  27. Heather Says:

    Zinkity tinkity figary fell
    Ell dell dominell
    Eerky perky
    toe a rope
    am pam toodly joke.

    As with so many others, going with made-up spelling here, relying on possible faulty memory here. Handed down from a Glaswegian (well, was then, currently considered within Bearsden) from the 1920’s. Thrilled to find so many others also happy to meet others to finally share memories of this rhyme with others who say yes! instead of I’ve never heard that.

  28. Bill McMahon Says:

    My mum was born in Glasgow 1916. She taught me this version which girls sang while skipping at playtime at school.
    Eeenty teenty iggery fell
    ell Dell Dominell
    An Tan Toosy Jock
    Urky Porky Tawry Rope.

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