A Scottish Choosing Rhyme – Zeenty Teenty

Wendy wrote about a cool Scottish rhyme.  It’s a type of rhyme called a counting-out rhyme.  Counting-out rhymes are used to choose in games… generally you count-out players who leave the game.  Whoever’s left at the end is "It".  Here’s what Wendy wrote:

My grandfather was from Scotland and taught my brother and I this counting verse over 60 years ago.  The spelling is wrong I am sure but I am sending it as it was said…

A zeentee teentee heathery beathery bambleery over dover zan tan toosh!  A oner a twoer a tickedy seven halibucrackit ten eleven. Pin pan Muskee Dan.  Toodle um toodle um 21.


I love that rhyme Wendy!  Here’s another rhyme with "zeenty teenty" from 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.’

If anyone would like to explain anything else about the meaning of these rhymes or share other rhymes like them, feel free to comment below.


Mama Lisa

This article was posted on Wednesday, November 9th, 2011 at 9:56 pm and is filed under Counting-out Rhymes, Counting-out Rhymes, Countries & Cultures, England, English Nursery Rhymes, Languages, Nursery Rhymes, Rhymes by Theme, Scotland, Scottish Nursery Rhymes, Welsh, Welsh 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.

One Response to “A Scottish Choosing Rhyme – Zeenty Teenty”

  1. Tony Says:

    Very interesting. Primo Levi mentions the connection to Welsh shepherds of counting-out games in his essay The International of Children in his book Other People’s Trades.

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