The taunt

Today’s One Big Happy has James reciting a piece of American childlore, the taunt “X is a friend of mine” (where X is a name, preferably a trochaic one, like Ruthie, to fit the trochaic tetrameter pattern of the verse):


A cornucopia of pop culture references.

The playfully demeaning taunt — conveying ‘X is ugly (like Frankenstein’s monster) and fat (like Porky Pig)’ — is typically delivered directly to X, or at least performed in X’s presence. It can be recited, especially in sing-song fashion, or sung to the tune of the nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb”. The pattern:

X is a friend of mine.
(s)he resembles Frankenstein.
When (s)he does the Irish jig,
(s)he resembles Porky Pig!

“Mary Had a Little Lamb” would put the taunt back in 19th-century America, but the reference to Porky Pig, and probably the reference to Frankenstein as well, make the verse no older than the 1930s. The first line is probably an allusion to an American gospel song with the culminating line “Jesus is a friend of mine” (written in 1910). (The Irish jig is presumably there only to make the rhyming reference to Porky Pig possible.)

From Wikipedia on Porky Pig:


The character was introduced in the short I Haven’t Got a Hat (first released on March 9, 1935), directed by Friz Freleng. Studio head Leon Schlesinger suggested that Freleng do a cartoon version of the popular Our Gang films. Porky only has a minor role in the film, but the fat little stuttering pig quickly became popular.

On Frankenstein in popular culture, from Wikipedia:

  (#3) Boris Karloff as Frankenstein’s monster

Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel Frankenstein, and the famous character of Frankenstein’s monster, have influenced popular culture for at least a century. The work has inspired numerous films, television programs, video games and derivative works. The character of the monster remains one of the most recognized icons in horror fiction.

… The first sound adaptation of the story, Frankenstein (1931), was produced by Universal Pictures, directed by James Whale, and starred Boris Karloff as the monster.

The Whale-Karloff version of the monster quickly became a prominent figure in popular culture.

And the 1910 hymn that spread “Jesus is a friend of mine”: “Why Should I Charge My Soul with Care?”, words by John Henry Sammis (tune by D. B. Towner, 1850-1919), with the chorus:

Yes, He’s a Friend of mine,
And He with me doth all things share;
Since all is Christ’s, and Christ is mine,
Why should I have a care?
For Jesus is a Friend of mine.

The hymn found its way into many American hymnals in the early 20th century. The line “Jesus is a friend of mine” became a kind of Christian catchphrase and was eventually used in other hymn texts, set to other tunes.

Summing up the evidence on the age of the taunt, it would seem to be no earlier than the late 1930s, probably later. (It wasn’t part of my childhood; I didn’t hear it until sometime in the 60s or 70s.)

More elaborated versions have been reported, like this one from an anonymous contributor to The Data Lounge on “silly song lyrics from childhood”:

___ is a friend of mine
He resembles Frankenstein
When he walks around the house
He resembles Mickey Mouse
When he does the Irish jig
He resembles Porky Pig
When he walks across the street
You can smell his stinky feet
When ___ comes out to play
All the children run away
(you then run away from the person)

Bonus: a dirty version of the taunt. Reported from memory by a Straight Dope commenter on the taunt:

X is a friend of mine
(s)he will do you anytime,
For a nickel or a dime
Twenty cents for overtime

Instead of charging that X is ugly and fat, this version charges X with being a prostitute. (A cent in the verse obviously stands for some larger amount in the real world: a dollar perhaps — so $5, $10, $20, which would have been going rates for various services from a street prostitute many decades ago — or nowadays ten dollars (so $50, $100, $200).

(I don’t recall having heard this version until today. Certainly not during my boy dirty talk period, roughly 1945-55, even though that included something like five summers at a boys’ camp, where I got an intensive informal education in dirty rhymes and dirty jokes.)

This too has more elaborated versions. From The Data Lounge collection, noted as being from a rough Chicago neighborhood in the 1970s:

___ is a friend of mine
He will blow you anytime
For a nickel or a dime
Fifty cents overtime
If you have a union pass,
He will even lick your ass
If you have a credit card,
He will blow you extra hard…
(goes on…forgot the rest)

Instead of the vague (and inoffensive) verb do, this version goes right down on the fellatial verb blow.

3 Responses to “The taunt”

  1. Army Arne Says:

    I know the dirty ones go at least back to the Korean war, because my Uncle could recite several vss of it, yet, when he used it on us nephews, he would clean up the lyrics – but in his head it was dirty, b/c he would chortle as he sang it…got it from the Army. There were other ditties, too, that he got from the Army. He was a medic.

  2. Gary A Lind-Sinanian Says:

    I don’t know how old the verbal taunt is but I once interviewed an elderly woman, a survivor of the Armenian Geocide, who had been in an orphanage in Turkey during World War I. She said that the same melody was used in children’s games and when she moved to Istanbul in 1920 she saw adults dancing the ‘Polka’ (actually a Varsovienne) to the same melody.
    So the melody dates to World War I or earlier. Possibly from the Balkans but that is speculation. The taunt probably came later.

  3. Carl Metzler Says:

    FWIW I remember my dad singing a variation of the “friend of mine” version around the house around 1955.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: