Want to hear it? Listen free on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/track/1DxQ0RXQe1a1gy5mlfrgiZ or Apple Music: https://music.apple.com/lu/album/jadda-jadda-jing-jing-jing/474677341
Do you recognize this very silly song?
When I recorded my first children’s music CD many moons ago, I included a hysterical little summer camp song called “Magdalena Hagdalena”. I learned the song from my sister-in-law who had sung it during her girls scout years in the Philadelphia area. Little did I know that as I took that song around, I would find out that good old Magdalena had a host of aliases and lots of rather odd and unusual traits. In fact, it’s one of the songs that people talk about most, because they’ve always heard a slightly different version. I just love that aspect of certain folksongs… everyone recognizes the song, but each one has their own twist or lyric change that makes it more personal, memorable or unique for them.
If you haven’t heard Magdalena Hagdalena, it’s a song that folklorists call a “nonesuch”. You know… something that can’t possibly happen, like the old rhyme that starts…
“One dark night in the middle of the day
Three dead boys came out to play
Back to back
they faced each other”
(Complete rhyme below)
In this case, Magdalena was an interesting character with several hairs on her head, strange dental irregularities and two feet like bathroom mats. In short, it’s just a silly song that makes you smile with how the sounds in the song fit together and by imagining what the impossible lyrics might really be describing.
The best part of this tongue-twisting tune is the many names that folks have created for good old Magdalena. In fact, there were apparently so many that one author named Tedd Arnold collected them in a wildly illustrated book he calls:
Catalina Magdalena Hoopenstiener Wellendiner Hogan Logan Bogan Was Her Name.
Tedd’s book lists a host of choruses that I had heard for our likable character and some that I had never imagined including:
Madalina Catalina, Whoopastina Wilamina
Oopsy Doopsy Woopsy was her name
Aggalina Maggalina Whoops Now Whoops Now
Ooga Booga Booga was her name
Madalina Catalina, Rupesteena Wanna Donna
Hoko poko poko was her name
The lyrics I learned and recorded can be found in the freebie lyric sheet below. But, whichever version you are familiar with, it’s nice to share silly songs with your child. It lets them hear you play with language and also fires up their brain to think out why something might be impossible or ridiculous and still funny at the same time. If Magdalena, Hagdalena or one of her incarnations is part of your past, you can also talk to them about where you learned it and what other songs are part of your life story and why. Were you at summer camp? Did your parents or siblings teach it to you? Were you jumping rope or did you sing it on the bus to school to drive the bus driver crazy? And what were your favorites songs way back when?
Sharing these kinds of seemingly simple experiences helps kids answer important questions about where you come from. Mom (or Dad or Grandma or Grandpa) what were things like when you were my age? You know, in the time when dinosaurs roamed the Earth … along with silly little girls named Magdalena!
Links and Resources
Magdalena Hagdalena Printable lyric page
Tedd Arnold’s Book:
Catalina Magdalena Hoopenstiener Wellendiner Hogan Logan Bogan Was Her Name. http://amzn.com/B000JGWDS
One Dark Night
One dark night in the middle of the day
Three dead boys came out to play
Back to back They faced each other
Drew their swords and shot each other
If you don’t believe what I’m telling you is true.
Go ask the blind man…he saw it , too!