Do you still remember those schoolyard rhymes you sung as a kid? We often get our first understanding of the adult world through jokes and rhymes we picked up from our classmates during recess or on the way home. Sometimes absurd, sometimes whimsical, sometimes even raunchy or scary, we giggled and squealed and scampered off with these schoolyard chants being made up on the fly.
Denmark has its fair share of shoolyard rhymes, albeit revealing a very intriguing side to Danish humor. “Alle bornene”, translating into “all the children” is a type of funny rhyme with a slightly morbid and irreverent flavor, and follows a particular rhythm and measure. It starts with the line “all the children”, followed by some form of activity. The second line focuses on the exception to the group, a hapless child whose name rhymes with whatever unexpected horrible fate the rhyme-makers have decided to befall on him or her.
Take this, for example:
All the children ran out of the burning school
Except for Greg – he was missing a leg.
Care for something a little more eyebrow raising?
All the kids sat on the freezer,
apart from Bob – he wanted out!
All the kids looked nice,
apart from Matt – he looked like a rat!
Something with a darker, more mischievous tone:
All the kids crossed the road,
apart from Ann – she was hit by a van!
All the kids drank Cola,
apart from Kent – he drank cement!
All these rhyes, despite what some conservative folk may say, is all done in good clean, fun. Besides, these rhymes are very Edward Gorey with a side of Tim Burton – there is some gleeful, even non-malicious fun too to be seen in the dark side of things.