One of the most interesting things I find in doing research as a profession is discovering how serious scholars really do very in depth research on seemingly very non-academic things. When writing my first book, Why Marriage Matters, I was researching step-families and found a scholar who had written extensively on the way step-mothers are consistently portrayed as villains throughout the history of early children’s literature. This afternoon I’m researching children’s rhymes related to family, gender and sexuality for a writing project and came upon this fun wikipedia entry on a song we all know and sang years ago. It explains:
“K-I-S-S-I-N-G” or “Kay Eye Ess Ess Eye En Gee” is the name of a playground song, jump-rope rhyme or taunt.
It really only achieves its desired effect—embarrassment—when sung among children to a couple that is in romantic love. The embarrassment is derived from the prospect of romantic contact between a boy and a girl, usually an uncomfortable topic for young children.
The song is learned by oral tradition:
[Boy name] and [Girl name] sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G.
First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in a baby carriage!
Occasionally, but rarely, a coda may be added:
That’s not all! That’s not all!
Here comes the baby drinking alcohol (or) playing basketball!
And added to this either…
…sucking his thumb,
…peeing his pants,
…doing the hokey-pokey dance.
A version of this song also exists in Spanish, in which the couple is said to be “debajo de un árbol”, or under a tree, instead of sitting in one.
There is also a German version, where the couple is sitting in snow (schnee, pronounced “shnay”) instead of a tree, because the German word for tree (Baum) does not rhyme with “K-Ü-S-S-E-N-D”, the correlative of “K-I-S-S-I-N-G”.
It’s fascinating that songs like these are known and loved across diverse cultures and continue to live from generation to generation. But if I had know these other additional lines when I was a tot, I would have combined all three of these last additions into one nice conclusion about my playmate’s baby who…
“… sucks his thumb, pees his pants all while nailing the hokey-pokey dance.”