The melody from eeny meeny miny mo is ubiquitous. It shows up as eena meena ming mong in Zimbabwe, une mine mane mo in France, and takes many other forms in a myriad of cultures. Nobody knows exactly where it comes from - linguists have postulated that it's everything from a corruption of Dutch to creole spoken by African slaves - but the most credible theory I've seen on this was proposed by Princeton lecturer Adrienne Raphel back in 2016. Apparently, it may trace to a rhyming counting system used by northern English shepherds that went yan, tan, tethera, methera, pimp and was eventually also the basis for other rhymes such as hickory dickory dock. Nonsense words were substituted, but the tune remained the same. Unfortunately, the second part of the rhyme most schoolchildren learned today, catch a tiger by the toe/if he hollers let him go, used to be catch a Negro by the toe/if he hollers make him pay (or that with the n-word), in reference to the punishment that escaped slaves would receive when caught. This was eventually whitewashed with more innocent lyrics, but received renewed publicity when a Southwest Airlines stewardess used the cleaner rhyme on a 2004 flight, which upset an elderly Black passenger so much that she had a seizure and sued (she eventually lost). The Wikipedia page on this, this article about the court case, and this article on racist children's songs are good for further reading if you're interested.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a junior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.