German counting rhymes: Abzählreime

Posted on 27. Mar, 2012 by in Children, Culture, People

I have predominately applied myself to grammatical topics so far and completely – unintentionally – ignored children’s topics. Therefore, I would like to dedicate this post to all children and ageless people by focusing on German Abzählreime (counting rhymes).

 

Before children can begin to play a game , e.g. Verstecke (hide and seek) or Fange (tag), they often need to agree which of them may start. In order to prevent any quarrels, counting is a fun way to determine the beginner. Below you can find a selection of German counting rhymes as well as the English translations. Mind that the English versions do not always sound so nice because I focused on the literal translation rather than on well-formed transcriptions.

 

1. Ene, mene, miste

Ene, mene, miste 

Was rappelt in der Kiste?

Ene, mene, meck

Und Du bist weg.

Eenie, meenie, fox 

What is rattling in the box?

Eenie, meenie, won

And you are gone.

 

Note: German “miste” and “meck” are nonsense words. I only used “fox” and “won” in the English translation to make it rhyme with “box” and “gone”.

 

2. Müllers Kuh

Ich und Du, 

Müllers Kuh

Müllers Esel das bist Du

Das bist du noch lange nicht,

Sag mir erst wie alt du bist,

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, … (counting child’s age)

6 ist kein Wort

und Du bist fort.

I and you, 

Miller’s cow

Miller’s donkey that are you

That aren’t you not by a long shot

Tell me first how old are you

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, … (counting child’s age)

6 is no word

and you are off.

 

3. Amerika

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 

wo ist nur mein Freund geblieben?

Ist nicht hier,

Ist nicht da,

Ist wohl in Amerika!

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 

where is my friend?

Is not here,

Is not there,

Must be in America!

 

4. Der Storch und der Hase

Eins, zwei, drei, vier, fünf, 

Der Storch hat keine Strümpf,

Der Frosch hat kein Haus

Und du musst raus!

One, two, three, four, five 

The stork has no socks

The frog has no house

And you are off!

 

5. Das Ei

Eins, zwei, drei, 

Auf der Treppe liegt ein Ei

Wer darauf tritt,

Spielt nicht mit.

One, two, three 

On the stairs there is an egg

Who steps on it

Does not join in.

 

6. Die Micky Maus

Eine kleine Micky Maus 

Zieht sich mal die Hose aus,

Zieht sie wieder an

Und du bist dran.

A little, little Mickey Mouse, 

Is taking off his pants

Is putting them on again

And it’s your turn.

 

How often a counting rhyme has to be repeated depends, firstly, on the counting rhyme itself and, secondly, on how many children are involved. Rhymes 1, 2, 3, and 4 can be used to ‘count down’ which child may start. Rhyme 6 can be used when only two children are involved. And Rhyme 5 can be used when a game needs a kind of leader, so that the child who does not join in has to fulfill another part in a game.

 

What are common counting rhymes in your mother language?

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About Sandra

Hello everybody! I studied English and American Studies, Communication Science, and Political Science at the University of Greifswald. Since I have been learning English as a second language myself for almost 20 years now I know how difficult it is to learn a language other than your native one. Thus, I am always willing to keep my explanations about German grammar comprehensible and short. Further, I am inclined to encourage you to speak German in every situation. Regards, Sandra

8 Responses to “German counting rhymes: Abzählreime”

  1. kaushik Chakraborty 28 March 2012 at 5:33 am #

    Dear Sandra,

    It is really a wonderful post specially for the new learners of this language.One can learn so easily from the children’s stuffs.I am hopeful to see some posts on the children’s story,literature etc.

    Thanks a lot.

    Regards,

    Kaushik Chakraborty
    National Institute of Design
    India

  2. Allan Mahnke 28 March 2012 at 7:40 pm #

    Sehr viel Spass! Vielen Dank!

  3. Charles Laster 29 March 2012 at 7:48 pm #

    Good job. Liked the depantsing of mickey mouse.

  4. luthfi 30 March 2012 at 3:17 pm #

    Can you tell me to sing that rhyme? Or you can post your voice. So, I can sing it too. Danke

  5. Bernd 21 July 2012 at 1:29 am #

    the second game is called Fangen or more commonly referred to as Packen

  6. Anonymous 11 September 2012 at 2:53 am #

    Eenie, meenie, miney, moe,
    catch a tiger by the toe.
    If he hollers
    let ‘em go,
    eenie, meenie, miney moe.

    In California, there’s a ‘my mother told me so’ line thrown in after ‘let ‘em go,’ sometimes replacing the last ‘Eenie, meenie, miney moe,’ depending on who’s counting off. In some parts of Michigan, the tiger is replaced by a dragon.

    Here’s another, lesser known one I’ve only heard in Michigan:

    Engine engine number nine,
    chugging down Chicago line,
    if the train went off the track,
    would you want your money back?

    The kid who’s fist (or foot) was hit on the last word will say a number, and the counter will then spell or count that number and knock someone out on the last letter or number. Then the rhyme is repeated untill only one fist remains.

    Bubble gum, bubble gum in a dish,
    how many pieces do you wish?

    This one is more common than ‘Engine engine number nine,’ but ends the same way-with a number.

    Instead of counting off, sometimes for tag one kid will just shout ’123notit,’ and the last kind to say ‘not it’ is it.

  7. xtofu 4 November 2012 at 2:18 am #

    hello!
    that’s cool and helpful, thank you.
    i would just point out that ‘gone’ does not rhyme with ‘won’ in standard english!
    it can do in some dialects though.

  8. Antoinette 9 May 2014 at 1:38 pm #

    Alo I am learning German and this was so cool oder Toll.
    Vielen Dank.


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