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Treebeard's Stumper
26 April 2002

Hanky Panky

Dunn Middle School kids played a clapping game on our campout last week. They stand in a circle and sing a catchy song that starts "Down by the banks of the hanky panky," and they clap (slap!) hands with kids around the circle until the verse ends. The last person clapped is out, and the next person in line starts again. Faster claps are legal, but I usually counted 32 beats and claps per verse. If 10 kids start in a circle to play, and person number one starts by clapping person number 2, and there are always 32 claps per verse, then who will be the last person standing? What if any number of kids play?

DMS students playing the Hanky Panky clapping game.

Kids who are out have to sit in the center, which becomes a smaller and smaller "puppy pile" of kids near the end. There is a particular way to hold hands in the circle which you can see in the photo. When it gets down to the last two kids, they don't clap, but they make a kind of handshake and rock it back and forth. I don't quite understand it, but the kids seem to understand perfectly. I'm simplifying the game for the sake of a tricky stumper. The first person claps the second person (that's one), and the 32nd person to be clapped is always out. So who is the last one standing?

The song lyrics go something like this, with the 32 slaps shown with x's:

x    x  x   x     x  x   x  x  x  x
Down by the banks of the hanky panky

x     x   x   x     x    x    x    x  x
Where the bullfrogs jump from bank to banky

x     x   x     x    x    x
Where the heeps hops soda pops

x  x          x    x      x    x  x
He missed the lily and he went kerplop

Actually, different kids were singing different lyrics at the same time without noticing. I picked the version that makes some sense, but many kids were singing something different. It's a classic mondegreen! Did Jimi Hendrix really sing, 'Scuse me, while I kiss this guy? There's a fun collection of misheard lyrics at www.kissthisguy.com How many different versions are there of this Hanky Panky song, and what is the source of them all?

Answer


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Copyright © 2002 by Marc Kummel / mkummel@rain.org