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.

339 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.

  14. Karen Says:

    My father taught me a similar one as Dee says:
    And little Vicky-vicky.

    Knowing that this has Scandinavian roots, I always thought it strange that I would learn it from my father’s side, which was English, and not from my mother, who was German, Norwegian, and English. I am reading about the Vikings’ influence on the early English language in 800 A.D, and wonder if the toe rhymes have possibly come from that early and been corrupted a bit as absorbed into English.

  15. Darcy Says:

    I have been searching for years for the origins of the toe rhyme that our family has passed down for generations and this is the closest I’ve ever seen!! Ours goes;
    Peda loodle
    Loodle whistle
    Whistle nostle
    And the great Big Bang bang on the woppa tostle
    Spelling is questionable haha

  16. Marilyn Jakob Says:

    My Mother was famous for this tug on the toes of little ones, sayin: “Little Pete, Petter Rue. Rue Whistle Molly Hossel. and Great Big Gobble, Gobble, Gobble.” We are from Northern New York and would love to know the origin of this “ditty”.

  17. Linda Says:

    Growing up my father had:

    Starting with the thumb, we have never found anyone else who used this rhyme…

    Grumble Great
    Lick Pot Sweet
    Long Man Ling
    Short Man King
    Little Ducky Darling

  18. Kate Says:

    My grandfather (born in 1900) and of Irish decent would name my toes as a little girl: Achey Pead, Penny Rude, Rudy Whistle, Mary Ostle and Old Tom Bumble.


  19. David Drewry Says:

    Okay, here’s what I got from my mom and grandma. She always started with the little toe.

    Henny Pea
    Penny Roo
    Mary Oslo
    and Big Tom Bumbo

  20. Toni watts Says:

    My grandmother from switzerland taught my mother
    Pee wee
    Penny lou
    Lou lou whistle
    Nissel snossel
    Cat cadouble
    I wish i knew the origin also. I was just doing it with my granddaughter and wondered if it was a real thing;)

  21. Eric Says:

    What a delightful find! I was just doing this little toe game with our baby and my 7-year-old said, “WHAT are you talking about?” So we Googled a phrase and low and behold, here is this post!

    My grandmother (German descent, born 1920) always said, starting with the pinky toe:

    Penny Rule
    Ruler Whistle
    Mary Hassle
    and OLD TOE BALL

  22. Harriet Says:

    All these years I said this to my kids, and now my son to his first born, 8 months.

    Eetie Peetie
    Paddy Rudy
    Rudy Whistle
    Mary Tustle
    And ….drum roll please:
    Ol’ Big Bumbler

    Father side English and German

  23. Fred Martin Says:

    Our Danish friends said (starting with Big Toe):
    Tummel Tut
    Long-a-mon (longest one)
    Itty-Pita-spool-a-mon (Little Peter. Music Man)

    Strangely, Long-a-mon works better for the hand than the foot, since the middle finger is longest, but seldom the middle toe.

  24. Kevin Says:

    Irish farm-family heritage,
    From my mother who grew up in a family of 12 in the baby boomers era:

    and Big Tum Bumbo!

  25. Kenneth Neal Christopherson Says:

    I am from Denmark i am 73 years old so let’s see how much i remember from the old country.
    I am not using a Danish keyboard so most of the words will be misspelled. The hand rhyme goes like this: start with the thumb tuma tot, piemont, longamont goulamot og lila bity spillamont. english translation: this is your thumb, this is your pointing finger, this is your ring finger, and this little finger in the spill everything finger.

    The toe rhyme goes like this: it’s talking about piggies start with the big toe. Den lille svine tog till buen, den lille svine blive jem,den lille svine hev roost boof den lelle svine hada ingen og sa den lilla svine geek ve, ve, ve, hele vejen jema. English this little piggy went to market, and so this little piggy he stayed home, this little piggy had none and so this little piggy went wee, wee, wee all the way home. After the little toe you tickle up the leg all the way to their chine.

  26. Carrin Says:

    My Swedish Grandma taught us

    On the other hand/foot was
    Per Anderson
    Gustav Guberson
    And Little Sven

  27. Stephanie Says:

    This is how I learned:
    Nicka Pee
    Pee Roo
    Roo Whistle
    May Hustle
    Big Tom Bumble!

  28. Tia Says:

    Picky Pea
    Penny Roulie
    Roulie Whistle
    Peelie Ossel
    Old Tom bunbo

  29. Karin Says:

    Ickie Pea
    Penny Roo
    Roo Whistle
    Mary Horstle
    Big Tom Bumble

    Welsh/Scottish/German family origin… ?

  30. Mari Says:

    Penny Roo
    Roo Whistle
    Mary Hustle
    OLD Tom Bumble!

    From my grandmother, Irish/Scottish

  31. Sandy Says:

    I was thinking about this and my Grandma, who was from Upstate NY used to say it:
    Little Pea
    Penny Rue
    Rudy Whistle
    Danny Hustle
    Hobble Gobble Gobble

    I didn’t know there were so many versions. 😆

  32. Mary Says:

    Memory of my late Norwegian mother saying this to me and my kids (not sure of the spelling):

    Lil perri-ensen


  33. Debbie Hawes Says:

    My mum passed at 93 this past summer, a finger and toe rhyme she grew up with goes:

    Little Pea
    Penny Rue
    Rode a Whistle
    Mary Tossle
    Tom Bumble

    Two Titlan
    Mouse Maplin
    Maplin How
    How Harry
    Dan Gilten
    Gilten Nod
    Whiskem Nod
    And ten.

    (Doesn’t add up. Can anyone complete it?)

  34. Pat Kleeberg Says:

    I grew up in Northeastern Montana where there are many descendents of Scandinavian immigrants. My mom’s best friend was Norwegian and she used to say this toe counting rhyme to us starting with the little toe:
    Ti tell
    To tell
    Spell rose
    Muckle fru
    Den store gubben hest (den STOH-ra goo-BAYN est)

    You need to hold onto and shake the big toe when you say the last line while dramatically elongating the “O” in store. Its fun!

    Many of the versions I see here certainly seem related. I think it means “one count, two count, (no idea), the big wife, and the big old horse.”

  35. Diane E. Hurt Says:

    Names of the toes (from the left little toe)

    Little Pit
    Penny Rue
    Rosey Issle
    Mary Ossle
    Big Tum Bumble

    Toe Tipplan
    Match Maplan
    Maplan How
    Ho Harry
    And Little One Wink Stand

  36. Cindy Avery Says:

    Little Twee
    Paly Loo
    Loodie Whistle
    Whistle Lossel
    Great Big Whoppie Dopple

    This is how my mother recited it to me and I to my children and grandchildren.
    Love seeing all the variations!

  37. Joan Holliday Says:

    Good day!

    I read with interest all the different names of our toes from all over the world.

    Years ago, I also learned the names of the toes from a Vermont logger, and have held onto that colorful information for 35 years.

    Recently I published my version of the names of the toes to create my first illustrated story, entitled Anna Maria’s Toes.

    I am texting to inquire if there might be a local library that you’re affiliated with that, that might like to have a copy. I believe it’s the first children’s story written on that topic. I could send along a copy, or one can be purchased through Amazon for Barnes & Noble

    Thanks for providing your blog. So sweet to hear all the different names of the toes from so many readers.

    Sincerely, Joan Holliday

  38. Jess Says:

    My favorite babysitter/cousin would do a similar run down on my toes whenever I was inconsolably upset as a little girl. It always made me laugh despite myself. She would say:
    Achy Pea
    Penny Roo (which is now my dog’s name!)
    Roo Whistle
    Mary Hossle
    And Old Tom Bumbo
    She learned from her mom who I adored.

  39. Betty Mathie Says:

    My dads parents both came from Norway and he use to count our fingers and toes like this:
    Little bitty inceman

    Loved it….

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