Mama Paquita: “Why would a baby need a sombrero?” and other problematic questions.

This isn’t a real post.  It was a rambling email I was writing to my sister and then it sort of got away from me and so I decided to flesh it out and share it here because maybe we weren’t the only ones who were taught this song in school.  You can ignore it if you want.

When I was little there was this song called “Mama Paquita” that we’d have to sing in music class.  According to our music books, it was a 1930’s Brazilian Carnivale song but it was kinda fucked up.  It was about some salesman trying to convince a mom to buy her baby a banana, a papaya, some pajamas and a sombrero, but she was like “Who has infant-sombrero money in this economy?  Let’s go dancing!” (I’m paraphrasing, but only slightly) and I remember thinking, “Why would a baby need a sombrero?

(Side-note: I just googled” “Why would you buy a baby a sombrero?” and I got a lot of vaguely racist pictures, and also a link to a poem, which includes the lines “He had heard stories of a baby sombrero wrestler who would one day rule the world, but he had never thought that it would be his son” and “Hey, do you want to go get some soup, and maybe have a baby?” {Which might be the best pick-up line ever.  Or worst.  Depends on who you’re trying to pick up, I guess.})

Anyway, when I was in third grade I asked the music teacher why we didn’t just  sing the original Brazilian song, Mamãe eu Quero, (which I’d memorized from Carmen Miranda movies and old Tom & Jerry cartoons) but she shook her head disdainfully, saying only that there were “too many nipples in that song”.

I was confused about that for years, but in high school I told a friend that I knew the words to a risqué Brazilian nipple song, which I then sang.  She knew a little Portuguese, and she told me my song was about breastfeeding and that my pronunciation was atrocious.  Then I said, “Oh wait.  It gets worse” and I sang her the bastardized English version from my childhood music classes, and she was like, “What kind of racist bullshit is that?” and I said, “The extremely problematic kind taught to small children in the 70’s?”

Then she looked at me in confused bewilderment and I nodded in embarrassed agreement and said, “Honestly, I don’t understand it either.  I apologize on the behalf of white people.”  (Which is a phrase I should just put on a t-shirt because that shit needs to be said A LOT).  She gracefully accepted my apology and offered to teach me how to curse convincingly in Spanish if I agreed to never sing that song again.  Our cultural bridge was built on a shared love of profanity, and although I never mastered the accent to her satisfaction, I will forever treasure the phrase: “I SHIT ON EVERYTHING THAT MOVES!” which is easily the best thing to scream when you are stuck in traffic, or when the copier eats your overdue report, or when life is just being an asshole in general.

ishitoneverythingthatmoves

This was all before the internet existed so I had to take my friend’s word on the translation, but then my sister reminded me of that song again and so I decided to go online to try to translate the Portuguese version.

And here is the (probably horribly butchered) translation:

Mommy I want, mommy I want,
Mommy I want to suckle!
Give the nipple, give the nipple, give the nipple
Give the nipple so your baby won’t cry!

Sleep, son of my heart.
Take the bottle and join my dance party.
I have a sister, she’s called Anna.
She blinked so much she lost her eyelashes.

I look at the little ones, but this way
I’m sorry I’m not suckling.
I have a sister, she’s phenomenal.
She’s the boss and her husband’s an imbecile.

And now I’m even more confused, and I can’t get the fucked-up English version out of my head.  And (if you were also taught it as a small kid) it’s probably stuck in yours too now.

Awesome.

I am part of the problem.

PS.  Again, I would like to apologize on the behalf of white people.  Seriously.  White people fuck shit up for all of us.  Including white people.  It’s baffling.  I’m so sorry.  Let’s go get some soup and maybe have a baby.

203 thoughts on “Mama Paquita: “Why would a baby need a sombrero?” and other problematic questions.

Read comments below or add one.

  1. In my version, the last lines read:

    I have a brother, he’s phenomenal
    But with common sense like a flea
    He’s got a wife and she’s an imbecile
    Good thing she’s not the boss of me

  2. I’m a little older than you are — we sang “Senor Don Gato” in music class which is a similar bastardization of a traditional song. Spoiler: zombie alert!! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Se%C3%B1or_Don_Gato

    (I totally sang that song. Cats, zombies, the female lead being positively described as “nice and fat”. These are a few of my favorite things. I had no idea it wasn’t originally in English. ~ Jenny)

  3. Not a song that works well for wooing that special girl you’ve had your eye on. Usually results in a restraining order. Not that I’d know, mind you. Ahem.

  4. Well, when I was a kid we learned a song about a crab who became an alcoholic to please her boyfriend’s snooty lobster family. Because school should teach valuable life lessons.

  5. I never heard this one in school, but we sang a Jamaican song called Linstead Market and the boys giggled.
    Chorus-
    Everybody come feel up, feel up
    Not a quattie worth sell
    Everybody come feel up, feel up
    Not a quattie worth sell

  6. This reminds me of Spanish class, when I had to make up a skit about feeding the ducks, and the verb the Spanish dictionary told me meant “to feed” ACTUALLY meant “to breastfeed.” Totally different things, dictionary. The teacher did a spit take upon hearing it, which made the embarrassment actually worth it.

  7. The gross disinterest of the back up singers repeating her makes me laugh.
    I sit here miserable and 3 days past my due date….This is the laugh I needed this morning! Thank you Jenny! you are always there for me ^_^

  8. I grew up in Japan and I just thought about how one of my favorite childhood songs translates to:

    Mr. Elephant, Mr. Elephant
    You have a long nose
    Yes sir, my mom has a long nose too

    …. what. So many questions. It’s amazing what children will sing in mass without thought. Amazing and mildly horrifying.

  9. Who knew your blog would also enrich my life culturally? I once asked a friend to teach me the phrase “Word to your mother” in Spanish. She told me it’s “Palabra a tu madre.” I never checked online to see if that was right (and say it frequently). Let’s hope I’m saying Spanish what I think I’m saying.
    Thanks!

  10. I feel I left out growing up in the UK. Or perhaps it was just that our school only had the Beetles song book. Yes, I still know all the lyrics to “Yesterday”. And thinking about it, “When I’m 64” is an odd song for a choir of 6 year olds to sing.

  11. My own grade school music class would have us sing Pete Seeger folk songs, Billy Joel and The Beatles. I think I missed out.

    “I shit on everything that moves” actually reminded me of a great thing that a guy I dated once did one morning – we were pulling ourselves together and getting ready to get pancakes at the local diner or something; he had been in the shower, and when he was done, he threw open the door to the bathroom and stood there, stark naked, sort of considering the world for a minute – and then he nodded with satisfaction and said, “I POO on my enemies!”

    Every so often I think that I need to work that phrase into conversation more often.

  12. “I apologize on the behalf of white people. (Which is a phrase I should just put on a t-shirt because that shit needs to be said A LOT)”

    No. No it doesn’t.

    (I understand, but we’ll just have to agree to disagree on that one. I apologize on the behalf of apologizing white people if you felt unwillingly included in my initial apology. I’d change it to “I apologize on the behalf of all white people (except for TC)” but I think that might be a slippery slope and I’m not sure how much text you can fit on a t-shirt. ~ Jenny)

  13. Amazing the stuff they used to teach us when we were kids. Would probably get suspended from school if a child repeated some of it now.

  14. Tom and Jerry cartoons are much more disturbing now that I am an adult.

    And what is disturbing is that i didn’t see how blatantly racist they were as a kid.

    Most of my understanding of how society works came form those cartoons…

    (RIGHT?! I saw one the other day and my jaw dropped. It’s a bit insane the things you see but don’t really see. It makes me wonder what else I’m missing today. ~ Jenny)

  15. Thanks that was so needed! This last year I’ve been managing translations of our technical manuals, and (long story) I’ve had to check A LOT of Portuguese documents. It started as just format-checking because I don’t speak Portuguese — but after 18 months of this, I know a lot of Portuguese vocabulary about fire alarms.
    And to bring it back full circle, I’m going off to find out what the Portuguese phrase is for the technical term “close-nipple” while I hum Ms. Miranda’s song. Even if that IS the wrong kind of nipple.
    http://www.amazon.com/Anderson-Metals-Fitting-Nipple-Length/dp/B002SAJXWQ/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1412775934&sr=8-3&keywords=close-nipple

  16. I learn so much when I come to your website. You provide a valuable social service. Your tagline should be, “Teaching people important shit since 2006”. But the Mother Teresa thing is pretty good too…

  17. I went to Catholic school in Staten Island, NY when I was little. Our Kindergarten music teacher was an adorable old nun with a thick accent named Sr. Angelina. She taught us songs in Italian and not once did we learn what any of it meant. We just learned to sing them phonetically like ABBA did with their English Top 40 hits. Never gave it a thought until now…what ever was the point of that? A squandered opportunity to teach some kids a bit of a second language…

  18. Can I substitute a sandwich for the baby? Because I’d totally want to meet you for soup and a sandwich!

  19. I went to Catholic school for 12 years, where Mother Superior was obsessed with The Sound Of Music, so we could only sing that, or hymnals. Jesus and Julie Andrews and all other white people ruin everything.

  20. I fucking love you. You make me laugh out loud whenever I read your posts. Which is always.

  21. Did you ever sing the song Dunderback? About a guy inventing a sausage meat machine that used ‘pussy cats and long tail rats’. In the end he fell in and became sausage. An elementary music class well spent.

  22. 1 I’m so confused that I read the entire post twice and I’m still confused. 2. How irresponsible of you to not provide the Spanish translation for ‘I want to shit on everything that moves’. 3 really? that shirt isn’t yet in your shop yet? come on now. 😀

  23. My sister in law is Brazilian and coincidentally just had a baby a week ago so I am going to FB this to her and maybe it will be a moment of levity in her otherwise sleepless mothering tunnel that is having a newborn in house.
    I did not learn this song as a child but a few years ago when I was helping with a Girl Scout day camp my 3rd grade daughter was attending I thought I would teach the girls some of my old 1970’s camp songs. As soon as I would start singing one I would realize how wildly inappropriate it was. Lots of swearing and fooling around in 1970’s camp songs. Running Bear and White Dove, Boy and a Girl in a little Canoe and I Want a Mansion in the Sky. I don’t think I completed a single camp song all day. I would just start making up lyrics to cover the awkward parts and then trail off and tell them I didn’t remember.
    Damn politically correct 2000’s!

  24. Oh geez. I just put that pick up line into Call Me Maybe… “Hey, I just met you, and this is crazy, let’s have some soup, and make a baby”… someone shoot me now.

  25. Holy crap, so many nipples!!!! I had no idea there were that many nipples in that song. And as a white person, I appreciate you apologizing for all of us. Saves me the trouble. As usual, you are warped, twisted and I love you. But not in a creepy, stalkerish way. I’ll shut up now.

  26. MC859: Dude, Senor Don Gato is how I learned what my solar plexus was. We sang that song all through elementary school and I started in the late 80s. It was a messed up song and I think I thought that even then, but I totally loved it. (I just sang it to my cat). I am unfamiliar with Mama Paquita, though.

  27. i love it! i shit on everything that moves. ha! that one caused me to laugh out loud… and then your tee shirt idea. yeah, that probably needs to happen.

  28. Holy crap, so many nipples!!!! I had no idea there were that many nipples in that song. And as a white person, I appreciate you apologizing for all of us. Saves me the trouble. As usual, you are warped, twisted and I love you. But not in a creepy, stalkerish way. I’ll shut up now.

  29. If I were the main character in that song, I’d be pretty concerned about my sister’s lack of eye lashes. That would be a little weird and creepy.

  30. Well, this has been educational! Ya mean the words aren’t “Dash of Pepper”? Mind….BLOWN. I need to stay home from work with laryngitis more often!

  31. I cannot make this up if I tried. I live in Portugal. I am 8 months pregnant and I have never heard this song as I am American. So I click play and my maids—> who rule my life, have taught me portuguese and love me like their daughter <— got so excited and now all three of us are singing this song at the TOP OF OUR LUNGS. Apparently, in Portugal it is as popular as in Brazil and it is very sweet. Although when you take it out of context it no longer works. And is creepy. And also you can now laugh every time you go to the store and buy a Chupa-Chupa gourmet sucker. Chupa-Chupa is Portugese for suck-suck.

    Jenny, you are like the American Ambassadoress of inappropriate!

  32. LOL! I have to apologize too. I remembered a song I learned in the 70’s in a Catholic grammar school about Native Americans. It was the typical profiling that went on in that time.

  33. I remember sitting on the dumpster by the donut shop singing this song with my High School friends:

    The pride of the prairie. The girl we adore. It’s Charlotte the Harlot. The cow puncher’s whore.
    One day on the prairie, no pants in her skin. A rattler went by her and flung himself in.
    I took down my rifle and aimed at its head. I missed that same rattler and shot her instead.
    And then at her funeral as we marched along the cow punchers lined up and sang her this song.
    “Here lies a young maiden who never kept score. It’s Charlotte the harlot, the cow puncher’s whore!”

    Sadly, the horrible person I am, I also sang it to my children at bedtime when they were too tiny to know what the words meant.

  34. I still have shudders that we sang “It’s So Nice to Have a Man Around the House” in my 1975 3rd grade music program. (which, had to be mildly amusing for the parents coming from 8 year old girls) Now that I’m older, I can see that my music teacher was not having ANY of that feminist bullshit up in her music room. However, yours totally takes the awkward cake.

  35. I would snap that shirt up in a second. I might request adding “Give the nipple! Give the nipple! Give the nipple!” though it may dilute the original message a wee bit.

  36. AUGH, autocorrect! It’s QUIM not SKIN. The song isn’t NEARLY as naughty your way!!!

  37. Methinks there were several bottles of tequila and some illegal substances on the table when that was translated. Just a hunch:).

  38. Somehow or other, I managed to eff up WordPress and needed to go correct it. But I still love this post. And yes Tom and Jerry is REALLY weird now that I’m not 8 anymore.

  39. Dunderbeck, oh Dunderbeck,
    how could you be so mean?
    to ever have invented
    such a terrible machine!
    For all the rats & pussycats
    will never more be seen,
    they’ve all been ground to sausage meat
    in Dunderbeck’s machine!

  40. You know what? I apologized to Cochise’s grandson on behalf of all white people too when I was out in Cochise, AZ in 1977! After he put his scalping blade away, he signed a book for me – “To My Friend Rachelle.” I guess all anyone wants is apology, love, & oh yes, and soup.

  41. In French class they taught us a song called The Littlest Sailor. It’s about a ship that goes adrift, runs out of rations, and the crew draws straws for who gets eaten. Guess who draws the short straw?

  42. I didn’t sing any of those songs, but I DID sing about drunken sailors, which as an adult Navy brat I think is hilarious.
    “What shall we do with the drunken sailor…put him in the brig until he’s sober…” Ha! Don’t drink and sail, children, or it’s jail time for you!

  43. As a Brazilian translator, I could try to provide you with a non-google-translate version, but it’s not really that far from your version. The whole song is just a blatant sexual innuendo for the desire to suckle on “mommy’s” tits, that’s it, that’s the whole thing. Very Freudian if you ask me. 😉

  44. Well, according to google translate: “Me cago en todo lo que se mueve”–doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue, but I’ll try it in traffic this afternoon!

  45. Thanks for my laugh of the morning! Never sang THAT song, but we did sing Don Gato. I think it was a Catholic elementary school thing. I STILL sing Red River Valley because of Sr. Loretta in the 6th grade.

  46. Huh. I always associate that song with the episode of I Love Lucy where Lucy worries that Ricky misses Cuba (or something like that), so she recreates it in their apartment: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vlndNoogYnI With these translations, it puts a new twist on that mammary. Memory. Whatever.

  47. Good grief! I remember the Mamãe eu quero song from an episode of I Love Lucy… I had no idea it was so fraught with nipples. I wonder what Spanish speaking people thought when they saw that episode. Was that considered racy back in the 50’s? What a scream.

  48. Now i really need to know about the alcoholic crab song Chuck B. learned in school.

    Also, Jenny, your video of you singing Senor Don Gato with your kitty has always been one of my favorite things.

  49. Dang it Jenny, now I have let’s get some soup and have a baby stuck in my head to the tune of Call Me Maybe. You are all welcome to this earworm.

  50. Awesome! I was watching Tom and Jerry with my 17 yo son recently and he said “I never realized what a dick Jerry was!”

  51. On the topic of good sweary phrases: When I was in college, I had a roommate who morphed over winter break from a good friend into a psycho bitch. She was making my life very hard. One day my aunt called to offer me some cheering up, and she shared with me her secret phrase that she considered the most offensive thing to tell someone “Go blow dead bears.” I never actually said it to my roommate, or to anyone, but it’s been a great comfort to me over the years to have it there in my arsenal, passed down through the female line of my family.

  52. And to think we just sang Memories and Edelweiss…wait – we did learn that one Japanese song, but I don’t know what the translation of that is (I’m absolutely certain it’s totally benign, though). Guess I’ll be spending my day on YouTube and Google Translate…

  53. Holy crap! /That/ song? I also remember it from Tom & Jerry Cartoons…and I am a Spanish speaker and got the “Mama yo quiero” and the next line (really, I did, I was young, and bilingual) I would have sworn was “Dash of pepper.” And I figured, since they were torturing Tom at the time, that it was about giving pepper to a baby, a la Alice in Wonderland. Because logic…and stuff.

  54. We didn’t have the nipple song, but every once in a while I’ll absent-mindedly break out into La Cucaracha – which in 1970’s Pennsylvania music class was built on charming verses like – “Down in sunny ol’ Me-heeeko – where all the kids in Spanish speeeeko.” And then I blush and look around to see if I have to apologize right then and there on behalf of white people.

  55. Mimi I’m latin so Spanish for I shit on everything that moves is: me cago en todo lo que mueve. On another note. Chupeta can be considered a pacifier. I really can’t stop laughing after reading the post.

  56. Sent that pick up line to 5 random male friends in my phone. The results=3 yes, 1 maybe, and one person blocked my number. All in all not bad results!!

  57. We learned La virgin lava panales (there’s a ~ over the n but I couldn’t make my computer do that) which translates to “The virgin washes the diapers.” A lovely Spanish Christmas song about Mary 🙂

  58. Thanks for the memories! I SO remember learning both the English and Spanish versions of this song in 1976 during summer Spanish camp. I have no idea why I was in summer Spanish camp in the 2nd grade while growing up in Asheville, NC, but the instructor had us sing this everyday! This will most definitely be stuck in my head all day!

  59. I like that you used the term “flesh it out” instead of “flush it out” and then this was a very fleshy post.

  60. I too sand Senor Don Gato. Loved that song. Then saw the video of you singing it, Jenny. 😀 yep, still loved it! Loved the way you sang it with your sweet kitty.

  61. I went to a day camp that taught us a song similar to this, but with different words… and I couldn’t even tell you, but I know it had something to do with not having any money, to buy bananas, and a papaya, “let’s go to carnival and dance the night away.”

    I don’t even know, man.

  62. I have nothing worthwhile to add, except that Carmen Miranda used to hide her cocaine in a compartment in her platform shoes.

  63. I love this post very much. Musical and hilarious and a trip down inappropriate Gen-X memory lane. Perfection!

    I distinctly remember singing slave songs with my all-white 2nd-grade classroom circa 1982. “Oh Mandy, Pick a Bale of Cotton” and “Shortenin’ Bread” come to mind. We loved those songs so much, we used to sing them in unison on the school bus on field trips.

  64. Who…the hell wrote that screwed up song? I mean, “lost her eyelashes”?! Not to mention the controversial breastfeeding parts. All the screwed up lyrics aside, this made my day and possibly week and that’s almost impossible so…thank you. 🙂
    (I love this font, by the way. I’m not sure why I felt like pointing that out. I might be more screwed up than the song, if that’s humanly possible.)

  65. I once needed to make a sign for a petting zoo that said, “Attention, Everyone. Please do not pet the animals.” I used an online translation site, but sent it to my sister who teaches Spanish. What my sign ACTUALLY said was “Attention Huddled Masses. Please do not caress the animals.” It probably would not have gone over well.

  66. I don’t recall singing those songs as a young child. The closest I could come to those is a song about “The Tart With The Cart”, “The Dish With The Fish”, “The Trollop With The Scallop(s)”, “The Dolly With the Trolley”, and “The Flirt in the Skirt”, AKA Molly Malone.

  67. Speaking of pick up lines which I’m a fan of, my boyfriends uncle said to his son one day, “Did it hurt when you fell from heaven?” His son said, “No, but I scraped my knees escaping from Hell.” He’s twelve.

    You’re welcome.

  68. Oh lord. When I was little my mom used to sing the Carmen Miranda song (but in Spanish: Mama, Yo Quero) every single time my oldest sister nursed her baby (very large age gap between us siblings). Although we are Puerto Rican, we kids had a limited grasp of Spanish, so I had no idea what it actually meant. I am officially scarred, retroactively, for life.

  69. chupetta is portuguese for a pacifier for kids.
    pronounced in portuguese as “shoepeta” shoo-pet-uh

    Mamãe eu quero, mamãe eu quero
    Mamãe eu quero mamá
    Dá a chupeta, dá a chupeta
    Dá a chupeta pro bebê não chorá
    Mamãe, mamãe, mamãe eu quero

    translated in portuguese it is:

    mommy i want, mommy i want
    mom i want, mom
    give me the pacifier, give me the pacifier
    give me the pacifier, so the baby wont cry
    mom, mom, mom i want.

  70. I can’t remember much of elementary school music classes other than we put on an all white and oriental production of “the wiz”…. Also my grade 8 teacher made us sing sloop John b and cats in the cradle and eye of the tiger….

  71. Isn’t shouting “I shit on everything that moves!” while stuck in a traffic jam a little redundant. After all you are stuck because stuff isn’t moving. Maybe I’m just overthinking this.

    And that song was in a Tom & Jerry cartoon? Wow, the things I wasn’t paying attention to in my childhood.

  72. I’ll never forget the day my tenth grade Spanish teacher taught us the version of La Cucaracha where the cockroach can’t walk because he doesn’t have any pot to smoke.

    I’m sure my parents would have been thrilled to learn that their private school tuition dollars were going towards me learning about stoner insects.

  73. OK, so I loved that Tom and Jerry episode… well I loved most of them. Anyway I clicked on the link because, reminiscing and was horribly confused and immediately fled in terror from the AD BY RAND PAUL that it started with. sigh reminiscing ain’t what it used to be.

  74. I’ve never understood why I was taught to celebrate someone’s head being lopped off in French.

    Seriously, I’m thinking about blaming my lack of maturity, propriety, internal filters….on twisted music teachers in elementary school.

  75. I agree with the apology, and am even willing to make the soup. I’m not sorry enough to have another baby, yo. FUCK THAT. I’m sorry white people have screwed the pooch for everyone, but adding more white people to the population simply doesn’t seem like a viable solution to me.
    Soup, though. Soup is good. Soup builds communities & crosses heretofore impenetrable boundaries.
    Kids are nothing but trouble.

  76. Ramona, I laughed out lod reading your comment. Attention huddled masses. Gah. I came from the school where we sang La Cucaracha, which I did not realize until later was about a cockroach. Not quite scarring, but enough to make me sing it every time I see one.

  77. Wait! I’m with Mimi. How do you say “I shit on everything that moves!” ?????? I want to add that to my repertoire! And btw – we sang “Fifty Nifty United States” by Ray Charles.

  78. What in the fresh hell…I know that song from Tom and Jerry too! I had no idea those were the lyrics!

  79. Yeah, Spanish profanities are the best. I always get frustrated when I can’t express my frustration properly in non-Spanish languages.

  80. C-O-F-F-E-E
    Coffee is not for me.
    It’s drink some people wake up with
    And it makes them nervous is no myth.
    Slaves to a coffee cup
    They can’t give coffee up.

    Yep, that was taught to us in 5th grade, by a nun, to be sung in the round. Catholic School in the mid 80’s was….interesting. Brainwashing at it’s best.

    The other song that were in that lyrics list with “Mama Paquita” – did you learn all of those in your school? I’m not sure what “stamping land” is supposed to be, but i imagine it’s either filled with spiders on the floor or is a tropical sweat-shop.

  81. You know the whole world just went to Google Translate, plugged in “I shit on everything that moves!” and is now going through the different languages to find their favorite. I would, but I’m at work (on my lunch break, not library time, no worries).

  82. I’m feeling a bit cheated by missing out on both the Beatles songs and the offensively translated versions of traditional songs — all we learned how to sing were the states in alphabetical order (born in ’76, so there was a period of time in the ’80s when they would trot us around to various places to sing alphabetically while wearing period 1776 costumes … it’s a wonder I’m not more scarred. Also, I can still sing the states in order)

  83. I’ve never had soup that can get you pregnant. That would have to be some seriously good soup and I’ve really always been more of a solid-food kind of person. Not that any of it’s going in the right place for that, anyway. I think I’m maybe more inappropriate than any children’s song.

  84. I took two years of Spanish in high school. The teacher was a native Alabamian. It was awful,
    “Hollah, yall! May yammer es Senoretar Kerr.”
    To this day, I could not hail a cab in Mexico…but I still remember every word to the song, “Un Elephante”. Which is a totally jacked up song about an elephant balancing on a spider web (and when he saw that he didn’t fall, he called another elephant). The song has no end.

  85. So, how the hell DO you say “I shit on everything that moves!” in Spanish!~?!? Inquiring minds want to know.

    (¡Me cago en todo lo que se menea! Or something like that. ~ Jenny)

  86. If we wear the T-shirt apologizing on behalf of all white people (because that shit does need to be said. A lot.), will you please teach us the foreign curses words that you know? I think that phrase in particular could be very useful to me. “Cursing lessons with Jenny” on YouTube. That would be epic!! You could bring in guest instructors. Please oh please oh please Jenny! Help us to curse better. It would be a Goddamn public service.

  87. Well hell. Now I have Mama Paquita stuck in my head. I did NOT need that added to my day. THANKS A LOT!

  88. My mother (who majored in Spanish in college), helpfully translated “La Cucaracha” for me and my sister when we were growing up. I don’t recall her even attempting to explain why a cockroach needed marijuana to smoke, though.

  89. So I grew up in San Antonio and never learned this song (I was in elementary school in the late 80s, so maybe there was a music curriculum shift) AND I’m half Brazilian, so not only did school not teach it to me, but my mother didn’t either. And she only spoke Portuguese when she moved to the U.S. But I did learn the song about a cat that I thought was about bread (limited portuguese vocabulary), but google tells me it’s about hitting a cat with a stick and it surviving. Wtf. The only verse I remember was the part about hitting the cat with the stick, the cat didn’t die, but it cried Meow. I never remember learning the verse that says don’t hit cats with sticks, they are our friends, don’t mistreat animals. SO the takeaway was if you want to hit a cat with a stick and kill it, all you’ll get for your efforts is a cat yowl.

  90. oh god. don gato and fifty nifty united states. yes I can sing all of the states in alphabetical order. My best friend went to a different school and he learned the presidents in order. I got ripped off, I could totally win Jeopardy if I had learned the presidents song!

  91. I never realized I had such a deprived childhood. No songs about nipples, sombreros, or cockroaches. At the private school my parents sent me to (school motto: we teach rich girls how to bully, get eating disorders, and steal opiates from mommy), the only song we had to memorize was the school song — chock full of faux-British-sounding lyrics about green fields and budding flowers — which I promptly erased from my memory the second I graduated. Bet I would still remember if it had nipples in it.

  92. As a Latin American and your longtime reader, I have to say I really dislike the “white man” comment.

  93. I’ll have the soup, and no baby. My childhood songs extolled the wonders of death, in “There was an old lady who swallowed a fly”, and “Found a peanut”, or violence, as in “Little Bunny Foo Foo”, or ridiculing physical deformities, like “Do your ears hang low?”. Nothing about nipples, sombreros, or bananas. Speaking of bananas (and violence): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wCkerYMffMo

  94. We had a bunch of stupid songs to sing in school, too. But mostly I hated playing Oregon Trail. The teachers would make us play it when they wanted to phone it in and not deal with our bullshit, so we’d stare at the green DOS-like crap on ancient Apple 2s or whatever the awesome computer of the 80s was. My people would always die because Grandpa was an alcoholic and drank all the whisky, so they’d end up with diarrhea or pneumonia AND diarrhea, and they couldn’t sterlize anything, which led to me staring at a sad little grave marker and hating Grandpa. Fuck that game.

  95. I hated our 6th grade PEOPLE teacher because she would line all the girls up and make us sing the chicken fat song:
    Take that chicken fat back to the chicken and go you chicken fat go away
    go you chicken fat go!

    As if that wasn’t humiliating enough, then she would make us do the whole:
    We must, we must, we must increase our bust!
    The bigger the better, the tighter the sweater!
    The boys are depending on us!

    This was all done in front of the boys. I’m 50 & still have scars from that shit. That teacher was a sadist.

  96. Oh. My.

    While I was never taught any version of this song, I have it totally sunk into my head from Tom and Jerry! And I used to think they were saying “dash of pepper…dash of pepper…” but now to know that “dash of pepper” = “give the nipple”? Wow. I am scarred. Plus, in watching the clip of T&J again, they actually do tie in the “baby” taking a bottle! Wow. Sigh. Wow.

  97. Holy cat-zombies! I, too, had to sing that song (Don Gato) some time around 1973. And now it’s stuck in my head. With hand-claps. Luckily, I was exempt from the baby-making soup song.

  98. Yep. don Gato. We acted it out for musical PTO night. I got to climb up on and jump off a roof. Dressed as a cat. My friend got to be the lady cat.mshe had a fluffy boa tail.

  99. I’m going to be having Tom & Jerry flashbacks for a while now, thanks to the YouTube rabbit hole your link sent me down, thankyouverymuch. (I mean, I had fun, but. At what. Cost?)

    Also, it always bothered me when Tom would actually speak. (Not counting lip-syncing to “If You’re Down In Texas Look Me Up.”)

  100. We had to sing about the girl selling Cockles and Mussels alive alive oh. The music teacher ignored the emphasis we all placed on “cock”.

  101. I remember some song about a cat. Del Gato…and 15 miles on the Erie Canal. That’s about it.

  102. Hahaha! You should definitely put that phrase on a shirt. Hell! I’d buy it and wear it even if I’m not “white”.
    This is the first comment I post on your blog and let me tell you that you are by far my favorite blogger on the www. You probably hear it all the time but you truly are. I usually skim through other blog post but I always read yours from start to finish. Hell I love your blog so much that I even considered naming my blog The Spanglish Bloggess. Then I thought about copyright laws and all that stuff and decided I didn’t want to get sued. So here I am instead. Reading your blog on a weekly basis. Thanks for the great posts Jenny L.!

  103. OMG!!!! My 8 year old had been singing this for the past 3 weeks (the English one, of course)! I never remember learning this song, but apparently some music teachers still teach this to 3rd graders!

  104. To keep the sun out of his eyes.

    As for apologizing for white people; I’m a little tired of being blamed for all of the other shit white people did in America before any of my relatives immigrated here. I am a second generation born American, so I am being blamed for things that happened generations before my family was here. Sorry, but we were a little busy keeping the Russians out of Finland to come here and deal with your shit.

  105. My nephew and his young friend were in the backseat of my car singing the Ants go Marching song and got to the part where the ants go marching eight by eight so I yelled, “And the little one stopped to masturbate!”

    And yeah…. that’s why I don’t have kids.

    All the good songs were learned on the bus to and from school, not at the school, but there was one about a dog who had a limpy foot cuz he stepped on a nail. What was that about?!

  106. We sang Senor Don Gato also. And we sang Send in the Clowns, which is not about the circus. But the weirdest song we sang was Eleanor Rigby. A bunch of 4th graders singing about a dead woman? In 7th grade, we sang Evil Ways. Teachers could basically do anything in public school in the 1970s!

  107. I was stationed in Puerto Rico for three years and a friend who was a native taught me some very nice cuss words in Spanish. But she also taught me one that I have since forgotten and I desperately want to remember it. It cursed you and all of your ancestors before you so it was an awesome curse in the big-time asshole division of curses. There was also another one that was truly insulting and I think it roughly translated into calling a man a ‘pubic hair.’ Can anyone help me out with the first one? I’m dying to know!

    Oh, my Catholic elementary school years were in the 50’s and early 60’s and we didn’t have any exciting musical songs to learn, certainly nothing that had nipples in it. Boring! And for Halloween we had to dress up as our favorite saints so lots of pillowcases on our heads with sheets wrapped around us in school that day. Now that was fucked up.

    I’m still scarred and that’s a fact. And thanks, Jenny, for some new songs to sing to my newly born grand nephew. I think his mama would approve.

  108. OMG!!! I was starting to think the Mama Paquita song was a bad dream! I learned it in the 70’s too!

  109. @mysticintraining (#145): I think the pubic hair one is ‘pendejo’—in Mexico, it means someone who’s kind of an asshole (as I recall) but my Cuban friend said that for them it meant ‘pubic hair’.

    My friend’s mom once made a comment (and not a swear, but it was SO FUNNY), ,,Ay! QueI barbaridad” which means, “How barbaric!” . She was very sweet and naive which I guess is what made it so funny!!

    I grew up in the 60’s and I never heard of any of those songs, except La Cucaracha. But we sang other weird songs, like this one where the chorus was “And drill ye tarriers, drill. And, drill ye tarriers, Drill! For it’s work all day for sugar in your tay….”

    When I was in Junior High band, we used to love to play this song called “The Trocadero”—-at certain points in the song, we would all stand up and sing,
    “Si, Si, Si Trocadero!
    Si, Si, Si La Mambo!
    Si, Si Si Trocadero!
    Si Tracadero, Mambo!!!”

    I love you guys!
    P.S. The Senor Gato video made my cats sit up and pay attention for some reason!!

  110. Senor Don Gato was a big one in my elementary school in the Seventies, but I’m apparently the only person in the world who remembers the horrible country-western song from the sex-ed video they showed us in junior high that went, “I got those V, VD blues; careless love, whatcha got to lose? I got high, on two-bit booze; careless love, loser’s blues, VD blues”.

    -j

  111. Hmmm…I had a homemade polyester outfit with sequins, several Holly Hobbie bonnets also homemade, watched a ton of Puff the Magic Dragon cartoons, and my parents bought me a Village People record for Christmas when I was 5. I clearly had no time for silly school songs in the 70’s. 🙂

  112. Oh, the things I missed out on by being homeschooled! Thanks for the laughs, I needed some after my crying fest this evening – I think the moon’s getting to me…

  113. Did anyone sing the Desperado song?

    “Oh what a big bold man was this Desperado!
    From Cripple Creek way out to Colorado!
    And he horsed around just like a big tornado.
    And Everywhere he went he gave his Wa-a-a-a-ar whoop!”

  114. I feel like I shouldn’t have laughed so hard at this. Honestly I probably laughed harder at this than at any other post of yours that I’ve read. “I have a sister, she’s called Anna.
    She blinked so much she lost her eyelashes.” What the hell am I supposed to do with that? Just wow.

  115. I has to learn the SAME SONG in 2nd grade. You’re right…now it’s in my head. Lame. I didn’t even watch your included video clips…because I LIVED it.

  116. Yes! Mama Paquita was in our music book in elementary school, along with a song about a fly that flew up a tree, slipped and came crashing down and smashed to pieces on the ground. Apparently the fact that FLIES can FLY was not taken into consideration. Another classic was about dad’s “whiskers” that were so long, he didn’t need to wear a swimsuit and instead wrapped his beard around his body to go swimming. The 70s were sick.

  117. I’ve been obsessively researching this obscure song from my Catholic School kindergarten class: “Beulah, The Beast Of Baluchistan” (which I remember as Beulah, The Beast of Beulah-kistan). It’s all about a vegetarian dinosaur, or so the lyrics say. I can’t find a recording of it anywhere on the internet. My google-fu has failed me.

  118. If you make that “I apologize on behalf of white people” shirt I will totally buy it. I dance in a hula troope and I’m a haole girl related to Captain Cook. ‘Nuff said.

  119. I don’t even need school to bastardize songs. I’ll do it myself 😀
    “Up on the Roof”.
    I sang this song at school and loved it. Until one day I thought roof…roofies…does he want to be…high!?
    Now I can’t listen to it.

  120. Hahaha! I’m in fits of laughter here, that’s the best translation ever – Google is true a comedian at heart. I’m Portuguese and could give you the true translation but just don’t have the heart to spoil the moment. Absolutely love your blog.

  121. It was still being taught in the 80s at my Catholic school in Florida too. And thank you…now all I can think of is “a ripe papaya, a ripe papaya for my baby to enjoy…cha cha cha!”

  122. Cannot believe Senor Don Gato has now come full circle! I work with a nice Cuban boy who has lots of cats, but has never heard the song, since he did not grow up in the US in the 70s, so of course I had to sing it for him just a couple of weeks ago. And now here it is again. Jenny, please get outta my head. Or at least do a little tidying up if your gonna hang out there.

  123. My 8 year old has been learning the Snake Charmer song on piano and every single time I hear it, I have to restrain myself from singing, “There’s a place in France, where the naked ladies dance. There’s a hole in the wall, where the men can see it all…” Horrifying!

  124. We didn’t really learn any songs in school but I did play Smoke on the Water in pep band. On my oboe. Small small school in a remote corner of Oregon.

  125. Whoa!

    So messed up.

    Part of me kind of loves the teacher who dared to say “there are too many nipples in that song”. I mean she at least named a body part – out loud.

    I have now asked the question, “Why would a baby need a sombrero?”, out loud so many times that the words have lost all meaning.

  126. You know, I have to agree here. It’s highly disturbing what the school music teachers decide is appropriate, and I wonder where they got their lesson plan from. Is this the curriculum that matches today’s common core math? It may have been “way back when” when you dealt with the nonsense but would it surprise you to know that many schools still think that is acceptable today? Kids concerts just aren’t complete without that “Oh lordy pick a bale of cotton” song either, which makes vague references to slave days. Also a good reason to be proud to be white huh?

  127. FINALLY an entity besides myself to blame for the incessant phrase rattling around in my head. Mine went “Mama Paquita haven’t any money” so at least I can now be earwormed with passable grammar. Now I’m trying to remember the spooooky Halloween songs we sang in primary school.
    “Have you seen the ghost of John,
    Long white bones with the skin all gone
    whoo ooo ooo ooo, ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo
    Wouldn’t it be chilly with no skin on.”
    Well, no, not really. Skin ON and no clothes on, chilly. Just bones? No sensory equipment.

  128. And in defense of baby sombreros, that is a lot of sun coverage, which is good for tender infant skin.

  129. OK, so I also want that t-shirt. Put it in Zazzle please.

    Also, am I the only one who had your whole page translated into Spanish so I could see how you say “I shit on everything that moves” in Spanish? (Until I saw that you actually gave the translation in a comment.) It’s kinda funny to see how Google translates Spanish into Spanish. You have to wonder, Google.

  130. Life has been more challenging than I enjoy recently. I thank you from the bottom of my twisted heart for the laughs I got here today. Let’s get some soup and have a baby.

  131. It took me many more years than I care to admit to figure out that the song “Alouette” is about de-feathering a small bird for no apparent reason. (I never got past elementary-school French).

  132. I went to elementary school in the late 80’s/early 90’s, and am some fairly under-funded districts. One school had music books from the 1950’s that referenced “Negro spirituals,” a phrase that got my (african-american) friend in trouble at the time, as he stood up and told the music, “I ain’t no Negro, and I ain’t singing your racist song.”

  133. Here’s the problem with growing up in Canada. We didn’t learn a single song that included nipples or suckling or anything like that. The closest we had was a French song about plucking the feathers from a lark. DAMMIT WHERE ARE ALL THE FRENCH NIPPLE SONGS?

  134. I was just telling my hubby how we did a Minstrel show every yr in elementary school (He is 7 yrs younger and grew up in the northeast…me..southeast). At least that ugly tradition stopped soon after me…..

  135. I’m South American. This song is much funnier in your version, cuz really it’s just about a baby crying for a pacifier. Ok, I left when I was young and maybe wasn’t keen on innuendo, but…

  136. Sorry to disappoint you, but this song is about a baby asking for a pacifier, not a nipple. Believe me, I’m Portuguese.

  137. Ah, you should have been in music class in the ’50’s. I won’t go into the “Southern” or “Mexican” songs they taught us, in the name of understanding other cultures. I don’t want people stoning my house. I’ll take a t-shirt. And my apologies, also.

  138. I have never heard anyone else talk about Mama Paquita. My mother LOVED that song when I came home singing it from music class and, seriously, she still hums it, twenty years later. I don’t know if I’m glad or horrified that apparently it wasn’t just some random thing that my music teacher came up with.

  139. My mum used to be a big Elvis fan and American Trilogy was one of her favourite songs….for ages after she died I got all teary whenever I heard that song and one day thanks to the wonders of the internet I decided to google the lyrics and found out that there’s a huge chunk of it which is about an emancipated man wishing he was back on the plantation being a slave again……oy….way to shatter my childhood memories song guy :p

  140. I grew up singing this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QwqZRuAxecI

    You’re so pretty, Oh! so pretty

    You’re some pretty doll

    You’ve got the kind of eyes that seem to talk

    They make me get so nervous that I have to walk

    Oh! I love you, how I love you,

    More and more each day

    Yes you’ve got some smile & you’re handsome too

    Ive got a million dollars that I’ll spend on you

    ‘Cause you’re so pretty, oh! o pretty,

    You’re some pretty doll.

    That was a little song my family used to sing to me

    When I was quite small

    Naturally they thought I would improve & mellow with age

    First date, what did the chick lay on me?

    Hey! You’re ugly, Man! You’re ugly

    You’re some ugly chile

    The clothes you wear are not in style

    You look like an ape every time you smile

    How I hate you, you alligator bait, you

    Why don’t you lay down and die

    Oh, You’re knock kneed, pigeon toed, box ankled too

    There’s a curse in your family & it fell on you

    Your hair is nappy, who’s your pappy?

    You’re some ugly chile

    You’re big foot, barefoot slue footed too

    How’d they ever get a pair of shoes on you

    Your hair is nappy, who’s your pappy?

    You’re some ugly chile

  141. I had totally forgotten about that song! I was in the school choir in the third grade (late 70s) and that was one of the songs we performed. Now I’m gonna have that stupid shit going through my head all day. Crap.

  142. Now I’ve got the second song stuck in my head…the “bomchicka bom bom bom” song.
    Damn you.

  143. lol…I sang the Mama Piquita song to my husband and it’s stuck in his head as he’s making breakfast. I’m super disappointed to find out that “Alouette” is about plucking a Lark. I used to love that damn macabre ditty.

  144. I learned this song in elementary school in the 70’s, too!! Along with a whitey-white version of Sloop John B, in which we were made to use “vernacular”. You know, “dee” for “the”. I cringe in remembered horror.

  145. So I don’t even get this. Carmen Miranda was in a movie singing about breast feeding and nipples (which totally go together but still)? Really? And nobody noticed? How does that get by? Is that really what she’s singing about? Didn’t anyone question this? (Are there way too many question marks in this reply?)

  146. It doesn’t actually say nipple. Da a chupeta means give me the soother. No idea who translated that to nipple, which is bico do seio.

  147. a quick trivia on the song and carmem and Brazil just because Im brazilia <3
    Carmem is not brazilian even tho she some kind o brasilian symbol around the world
    It does not say nipple anynwhere i the song its pacifier so its pretty much safe for kids haha
    and the part where she sings that her sister anna lost her eyelashes blinking means that her sister flirted so much that she losted it heheh

    I hope you like it 😀

  148. Can we talk about this version of the song, which has the Whitey McWhitersons singing it, along with a small child in a sombrero? Because I feel like the phrase “white people ruin everything” is not strong enough to describe the atrociousness of this video.

  149. Marianne [113]: we used to sing that (in English) in Infant School. Am assuming that you did’t get to do the accompanying Elephant Dance though? These were classy elephants, it was like a warped version of a TV adaptation of “Pride & Prejudice”‘s ball scene…

    lilyhy [189]: I know, such a catchy tune for such a macabre song. I catch myself humming/half-singing it sometimes (merci bien GrannyM) & feel weirdly guilty. As if just that’s enough to make some poor lark bald…

    We got taught “Skip to my Lou” in Infant School, which isn’t that weird, until you consider we were learning by rote & thus thought we were learning a song about skipping to the toilet…

  150. I can still sing most of Mama Pequita. Along with the Ahas of the background singers. I wonder if my 1970s music class song book was the same as yours. We sang about Mr. Fly climbing up a tree, crashing to the ground and dying while all the other insects tried to revive him, until the wise old flea pronounced him doa. I was always like, wth, fly? Your name is “fly”. It’s what you do. How is it that you’re falling out of trees and smashing to pieces on the ground?

    Then there was the song about all these animals raiding the refrigerator. “Mr. Hippopotamus was pulling some weeds. Pulling til his arms were beat. He said I know what I need now I know what I like. I feel like having something to eat.” And we wonder why Americans are so obese. It started in ’70s music classes. Mystery solved. Thanks, Jenny!

  151. Just found this blog trying to search for the song my kids have been singing since their performance. Yes, my kids are still taught a version of Mama Paquita, and apparently the Don Gato song as well (according to my daughter) lol.
    Funny read this morning, and to know how long school kids have been singing these songs 🙂

  152. Just bought a papaya for the first time in like Years, and the song popped into my head I too was in elementary school and girl scouts in the 70’s All the versions I find are a bit off from what i remember but same jest. So funny, I just had ti find the lyrics and found your post. Thanks for the laughter…”let’s go to carnival and dance and sing along!”

  153. I’m here because “Mama Paquita” wouldn’t get out of my head. A sombrero might keep the hot sun off the baby, but it’s a moot point because she hasn’t any money to buy pajamas or a sombrero. Thanks for the insight into the original song.

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