Thursday, 27 February 2014

Something you can do with your finger

I'm expecting a lot of hits with a title like that.

Iris has done a bit of research when I asked about what the boy says in A Canterbury Tale - see this post - and came up with this little tale, first mentioned in Chaucer's original. Although it is the title of the piece, I don't know where the finger comes into it...

Little bunny Foo-Foo

(The Official Version)Little bunny Foo-Foo, hoppin' though the forest,
Scoopin' up the field mice and boppin' them on the head.
Along came the good fairy, and she said:
"Little bunny Foo-Foo, I don't want to see you
Scoopin' up the field mice and boppin' them on the head.
[the fourth time, go to Coda]
I'll give youthree chances
two more chances
one more chance
to change your ways, and if you don't obey,
I'll turn you into a goon." So the next day…
[return to top]
"I gave you three chances to change your ways,
And each chance you had you didn't obey.
So now I'm gonna turn you into a goon.
Poof! You're a goon!"
And the moral of this story is . . . 'Hare today and goon tomorrow.'
(The Attitude Version)
Replace "I don't wanna see you" with "I don't like your attitude."
(The PC Version, first stanza)
Little Bunny Foo-Foo, hopping thru the forest,
jumping logs and bushes, on his way to play.
Down comes the good fairy, and she says--
Little Bunny Foo-Foo, it's so nice to see you,
running thru the forest, on your way to play.
But's it's getting late, so you'd better hurry!"

The History

There are definitely two separate literary traditions at work here. According to the OED2, the earliest reference for Bunny/Rabbit Foo Foo is Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, "The Knight's Tale:"And in the grove, at tyme and place yset,
This bunnie Fewfew and this field maus be met.
To chaungen gan the colour in hir face;"
But from the Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library, we get this:
1635: And in the grove, at tyme and place yset,
1636: This arcite and this palamon ben met.
1637: Tho chaungen gan the colour in hir face,
Arcite was Bunny Fewfew, and Palamon the field maus, and they were fighting over Emily. The bunny wins the battle but later loses both Emily and his life.
The British Tradition — The next reference is from Shakespeare, in a sonnet believed to have been written in 1609, or 1613 with John Fletcher (The Two Noble Kinsmen) (about the time he was hacking the Bible):
"Clear wells spring not, sweet birds sing not,
Green plants bring not forth their dye.
Herd stands weeping, flocks all sleeping,
Nymphs back peeping fearfully,
For Rabbitt Foofoo hath killed a mouse."
The American Tradition — H.L. Mencken's History of the American Language, however cites a 1623 manuscript from the Plymouth colony that claims John Alden sang a "lullabye about Bunnie Foofoo" to his children.


  1. I am all bleeding " bunny foo food-ed out"

    1. I thought you had a high animal-tolerance level.

  2. The power of blogland and the internet Tom. Ask a question and you are sure to get an answer.

  3. Oh dang, oh dang, oh dang! The excitement! I did think that the title was an interesting one to note. The article was written by a guy named Wild Willie Westwood, but how he ended up with that name and that title for his article is beyond me.

    1. Wild Willie, eh? I am starting to get a bad feeling in my foo-foo.

    2. I am never sick of a wild willie

  4. I looked because of the title. The End.

    1. Don't think of it as an end, Rachel. Think of it as the beginning to a new and exciting life.

  5. Well that was different.

    1. Not for us it wasn't - not for the last 700 years, anyway.