Have you heard about something known as the “Miss Mary Mack” game? It is a very popular clapping game that is known to all. There is a song around this name, “Miss Mary Mack”, and its lyrics were first discovered in the written format in the United States of America in the year 1888. The song then must be very old, right? But it is interesting to know that this song, along with the game related to it, is still very famous around the world. Did you know that though this song is American, where it even mentions the 4th of July, it is known throughout all English speaking countries?
Do you know who Miss Mary Mack is? Very few things are known about the person Mary Mack. However, given the name’s geographic origin, it can be assumed that Mary Mack originated from the American warship USS Merrimack, which was named after River Merrimack. If we pay close attention to the lines of the song, we can understand the reason for this name - the Merrimack was black in colour, and it had silver rivets.
There is little clarity on the historical background and the origin of Miss Mary Mack. It is known that the song and the games have been around during the 1920s in the African American communities, and it used to be a popular hand-clapping game at the time. However, from what is widely believed, this song is much older than the period.
In South America, children in schools and playgrounds were well acquainted with this song, and it quickly became popular, and almost everyone knew about it in the 1970s. The Miss Mary Mack song, like others such as “Down Down Baby”, can even be called the precursors of well-known musical genres like Hip Hop and R&B.
This famous clapping game is generally played by two individuals who are either standing or sitting opposite to each other while rhythmically clapping their hands.
To start the game, you should position your hands together while you face your partner. Then, you need to cross your hands, putting them on your chest; the left hand should be on your right shoulder and vice versa. The person playing with you should also do the same while facing you. The first word of the song must be sung now.
While pronouncing the second syllable, you should place both your hands on your hips, and as the song proceeds, you need to place your hands together once more as in the starting position.
The last move will replicate the first move, where your hands will meet your partner’s, but this time, it will not result in a straight clap; it will be done diagonally, that is, your right hand will clap your partner’s right hand. You will be singing the next syllable of the song during this while. Next, the two left hands will meet diagonally, and lastly, the two hands can clap each other. You need to repeat this process with every line of this song.
Two kids playing the game of Mary Mack
Miss Mary Mack, Mack, Mack
All dressed in black, black, black
With silver buttons, buttons, buttons
All down her back, back, back. (or “Up and down her back back back”)
She asked her mother, mother, mother
For fifty (or 15) cents, cents, cents
To see the elephants, elephants, elephants (or hippos or cows)
Jump the fence, fence, fence.
They jumped so high, high, high
They reached the sky, sky, sky
And didn’t (or never) come back, back, back
Till the 4th of July ly ly.
Miss Mary Mack skipping while watching an elephant fly in the sky
She asked her mother, mother, mother
For 5 cents more, more, more
To see the elephants, elephants, elephants
Jump the door, door, door.
They jumped to the flow flow flow
They stubbed their toe toe toe
And that was the end end end
Of the elephant show show show.
1. Who first played the game “Miss Mary Mack”?
The game of Miss Mary Mack was first known to have been played by school-going, African American children.
2. Where did the name “Mary Mack” originate?
Although it is difficult to trace the actual origin of the name, it is widely believed that “Mary Mack” was inspired by the American warship named USS Merrimack, after the Merrimack River.