The Origins of Some Scandinavian Finger and Toe Naming Rhymes

Julie and Beth wrote looking for the origins of two Scandinavian rhymes that are played with little kids while touching their toes. We’re wondering if anyone’s ever heard of these rhymes and perhaps knows what country they’re from and/or anything else about their origins. Here’s what Julie wrote:

I have been searching for the origin of a nursery rhyme that my friend said to her kids. The child has his/her shoes off and starting with the little toe, she names the toes:

Little Pea (little toe)
Peter Lou (next toe)
Oosey Nossey (next toe)
Toosey tossey (next toe)
And a Great Big Oppososso (big toe)

I am not sure of the spelling. However, the University of Wisconsin Children’s Library assures me that this toe rhyme has Scandinavian roots. They said: Scandinavia is known for naming toe rhymes.

Please help me, I have been searching the origin of this toe playing game for years with my friend’s blessing. My friend is Scandinavian and she doesn’t remember where she heard this toe playing game. I assume that she heard it as a child.


Beth Bookschlepper wrote in looking for the origin of a similar rhyme:

I know this as…

Little Pea,
Penny Rou,
Judy Whistle,
Mary Tossle,
And Big Tom Bumble.

I am also interested in its origins.

If anyone can help, or would like to share other similar rhymes, please comment below.



UPDATE: Check out Little One (aka Little Man) for an American Finger Naming Rhyme with origins in Medieval times.

This article was posted on Wednesday, December 13th, 2006 at 7:20 pm and is filed under Countries & Cultures, Danish, Danish Nursery Rhymes, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Icelandic, Languages, Norway, Norwegian, Norwegian Nursery Rhymes, Nursery Rhymes, Questions, Rhymes by Theme, Sweden, Swedish, Swedish Nursery Rhymes, Toe Naming 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.

313 Responses to “The Origins of Some Scandinavian Finger and Toe Naming Rhymes”

  1. Kevan Says:

    Big Tom Bumble, Penny Rue, Roy Whistle Marry Hustle AND little Ricky P. I had to laugh when I found this page! The came from My father’s side of the family. He would have been 101 now. It was from when he was a child.

  2. Jessica Says:

    My mother, 1916-2011, from Missouri was taught this by her mother- German and Irish descent- and she taught to me since the 40’s and we have passed it on- (probably Westernized):

    Penny Rue
    Rue Whistle
    Mary Tossle
    and Old Tom Bummer

    Such fun to read all the different versions. Thank you to everyone who has shared.
    Brings back many memories from Grandmother to Grandsons.

  3. Michael Rienstra Says:

    Here is a very interesting article on the same subject, from “Mimir’s Well”, a column written by folks at the “Institute for Northern Studies” at The University of the Highlands and Islands (in Scotland):–blogs/old-mimirs-well-articles/its-all-gone-fingers-and-toes/

  4. Susanna Bonta Says:

    Since I haven’t seen our EXACT version, I will post another similar one…probably an early Maine connection in here but no Norwegian that I know of:

    Iggy Page,
    Rhode Whistle,
    Mary Hossel,
    Penny Rude, and

    (I am probably the one who changed the order and made Penny penultimate, but we like it that way)

  5. Ernie Azevedo Says:

    My wife is from upstate NY and brought this one to the west coast and we’ve passed it on to our family with much love
    Starting with the little toe
    Little Peter
    Penny Rootle
    Rube Whistle
    Maid Hossle
    (Wiggling the big toe)
    Hibble Gibble Gobble

  6. Bette Burr Says:

    Little pede
    Pede a lude
    Loodie sissle
    Mary ossel
    Gobble Gossel

  7. David Ferguson Says:

    Wow! This takes me back many years to a train ride from Scandinavia to Paris. We met two Norwegian young-women on the train. In our compartment, we taught them our, “This Little Piggy Went to Market” song and, in turn, they taught us their Norwegian version of the finger-counting song and I wrote it down. It’s still in my travel journal and it is almost exactly as Kristina (above) remembers it. BTW, the Norwegian girl who taught it to me was named, Kristine!

  8. Dee Says:

    I was very young when I learned this but my great-great-grandfather was from Sweden and my grandfather (so, third-generation immigrant) taught it to us as:

    Little vickaveetus

  9. Barb Baker Says:

    I remember back in the 50’s my mother would sing to us as she touched our toes “pinney Lou, looney whistle, whistle wasle, wasle tossel.”

    Have no idea where it came but probably her mom, my grandmother from Haverhill Mass.

    I did it to my babies and grand babies. Fun for all
    I grew up in Waltham Massachusetts

  10. Jason Says:

    Here’s the version I was taught by my grandfather. He was a Smith, but he could have been passed down from any number of ancestors from different nationalities (spelling phonetically):

    Little Wee
    Penny Roo
    Rudy Whistle
    Seery Hostle
    Big Tum Bumble

  11. Bobby Rushin Says:

    I’m really surprised by how many variations of this there are! I thought it was a family thing for the longest time. It comes from my Mom’s side which is mostly Italian and we learned it this way:
    Little Pea
    Penny Roo
    Roony Whistle
    Mary Ossel
    And the great big Bumble bee coming round the barn (as you circle the big toe with your finger) gonna sting baby right under the arm (then you tickle their armpits.)

  12. Jane Coward Says:

    My ex used to play this toe rhyme,
    Peter Root,
    Rooter Whistle,
    Mary Russell,
    And gobble, gobble, gobble.

  13. Eleanore Says:

    All the variations are so fun! Here is how I remember my Grandma and Dad saying it:
    Little Pea
    Peedle Doo
    Whistle Nossel
    Nossel Whistle
    My husband could never remember it, and would make up even sillier things for toes 3 and 4 like Puzzle Weasel and Weasel Puzzle.

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