What a Funny Little Bird a Frog Are

fronLooking through my old physics textbook (Weber, White, and Manning—we knew who wrote our textbooks) from Penn State, I found this nonsense poem I had written in pencil in the back cover :

What a funny little bird a frog are.
Him got no tail at all, hardly.
When him walk, him hop.
When him sit, him sit on tail,
But him got no tail at all, hardly.
What a funny little bird a frog are!

I knew it so well, I could still recite it by heart after reading just the first few words, but I have no recollection of where I heard it or why I kept it. I Googled it and found it has many variations, which is the mark of a folk poem. Some knew it as a song.  No one knew its origin. All said it was just something they heard as a child.

My guess is I heard it from Dick Stein, an older, married friend at Penn State on the GI Bill, who was also a chemistry major with the same goofy tastes as me.   We sat together in the last row in almost every class simply because both “S” and “W” fall near the end of the alphabet.  He died a few years ago, so it is too late to ask him.

I also learned from him another nonsense song, “I Love Bananas (Because They Got No Bones),” that still runs through my head whenever I eat a banana, which is often.

The frog song makes a philosophical point:  A frog only seems queer when you think of it as a bird. Placing someone in a category often makes that person seem strange when they don’t belong in that category in the first place.  The category is wrong, not the person.  Many teenagers seem strange when we think of them as adults.  The same goes for seniors, gays, conservatives, or any category we use for people.

YouTube has a fascinating, ultramodern version of the frog poem sung as a very complex four-part round: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UHwwJkKp7Oo   I had no idea of the artistic potential of a round.  I thought “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” was as far as it could go.

The YouTube song has deservedly gotten over 100,000 views. and I put it on my favorites toolbar. Live graphics and text help to follow the singing. Their first line, and title, is, “What a queer bird the frog are,” and that is what you have to search for to bring up all of the many variations.

Their version goes:

What a queer bird the frog are
When he sit he stand (almost)
When he walk he fly (almost)
When he talk he cry (almost)
He ain’t got no sense (hardly)
He ain’t got no tail, either (hardly)
He sit on what he ain’t got (hardly)

I love it! even better than Dick Stein’s version.   I kid you not.


About Roger Walck

My reasons for writing this blog are spelled out in the posting of 10/1/2012, Montaigne's Essays. They are probably not what you think.
This entry was posted in History, Popular culture and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to What a Funny Little Bird a Frog Are

  1. Muriel Ritchi says:

    From Toronto Canada. I was googling silly poem my mother used to recite to me as a child. I wanted to find the origin of it and found your site. This is the version she used to say:

    Oh what a funny fish a froggy are,
    Him ain’t got no tail amost hardly
    When him jump, him jump
    And when him don’t jump
    Him sits on his little tail
    Which him ain’t got almost hardly

  2. Mike Thompson says:

    I was told this poem by my grandfather; a country boy from East Texas. His version went

    what a funny little bird a frog are
    Him ain’t got no tail at all almost hardly
    and when him walks him hops
    and when him don’t walk him sits on his little tail
    which he ain’t got at all, almost hardly
    He also told one that is credited to Dixon Lanier Merritt
    His version is somewhat different from others I have read
    It goes:
    What a funny bird is a Pelican
    Holds more in his beak than his belly can
    Holds more in his beak than he can eat in a week
    But I don’t know how in the Hellecan

    • Kevin Childs says:

      Thank you. Mike. All these other versions seem to be made up by the people posting. Your version is the one that flows, and is the one that I heard from my father in the late 1940’s.

  3. Jennifer Heintzman says:

    And the version told to me:

    What a funny bird the frog are.
    When him flies, him hops.
    When him doesn’t fly, him sits on him little tail
    And doesn’t move at all almost hardly.

  4. Diane Knight says:

    My mother-in law told as
    What a funny thing a frog are
    he has no tail, almost hardly
    when he sits, he jumps
    when he jumps, he sits
    on a tail he has, almost hardly.

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