Miss Susie

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"Miss Susie", also known as "Hello Operator",[1] "Miss Suzy", "Miss Lucy", and many other names,[8] is the name of an American schoolyard rhyme in which each verse leads up to a rude word or profanity which is revealed in the next verse as part of an innocuous word or phrase. Originally used as a jump-rope rhyme, it is now more often sung alone or as part of a clapping game.[9] Hand signs sometimes accompany the song, such as pulling on the bell in the first verse or making a phone gesture in the second.

This song is sometimes combined or confused with "Miss Lucy had a baby", which is sung to the same tune and also served as a jump-rope song. That song developed from verses of much older (and cruder) songs which were most commonly known as "Bang Bang Rosie" in Britain, "Bang Away Lulu" in Appalachia,[10] and "My Lula Gal" in the West.[11] The variants including a woman with an alligator purse urging the baby's mother to vote have been seen as a reference to Susan B. Anthony, an American suffragette and wife,[12] and may be responsible for the steamboat owner's most common name today.


The rhyme is arranged in quatrains, with an ABCB rhyme scheme. The rhyme is organized by its meter, a sprung rhythm in trimeter.[13] Accentual verse (including sprung rhythm) is a common form in English folk verse, including nursery rhymes and jump-rope rhymes. The rhyme approaches taboo words, only to cut them off and modify them with an enjambment. It shares much of the same melody as the 1937 "The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down" used by Warner Bros. as the theme to their Looney Tunes cartoons.[14]


The song has developed many variations over an extended period, as is common for such rhymes.[15] Even 21st-century versions, however, typically preserve long-outdated references to the dangerousness of 19th-century steamers and to the need for a switchboard operator to manually connect a telephone call.

The earliest recorded version—about a girl named Mary—appears among the vaudeville jokes collected by Ed Lowry during his career in the 1910s, '20s, and '30s,[2] although versions about Robert Fulton, inventor of the steamboat[16][self-published source]) and Lulu (the star of "Bang Bang Lulu") may record older traditions. The Lulu tradition—including "Miss Lucy had a baby"—already record enjambed double entendres during the World Wars, but the first version of this song known to have done so—versions about Fulton and a girl named Helen—date to the 1950s.[17][self-published source]

Later versions developed by embellishment: adding, removing, and adjusting stanzas involving kissing, boys in bathrooms, a little black boy, bras, King Arthur, questions and lies,[18][unreliable source?] German spies,[5] raving aunts,[5] and so forth. While the initial stanzas were fairly stable by the late 20th century, the folklorist Josepha Sherman noted that two unrelated children in 1990s New York took the change from "Miss Lucy" to "Ms. Lucy" for granted.[19] An adaptation—"Miss Lucy had some leeches"—has been recorded by Emilie Autumn[20] and another—"Mrs. Landers was a health nut"—featured in the South Park episode "Something You Can Do with Your Finger".[21][22]


Numerous versions exist, varying across time and regionally. One version is:

Miss Susie had a tugboat,
The tugboat had a bell,
Miss Susie went to heaven,
The tugboat went to...

Hello Operator,
This is Number 9,
And if you disconnect me,
I'll chop off your...

Behind the 'frigerator,
There was a piece of glass,
Miss Susie sat upon it,
And it went right up her...

Ask me no more questions,
Tell me no more lies,
The boys are in the bathroom,
Zipping down their...

Flies are in the meadow,
The bees are in the park,
Miss Susie and her boyfriend
Are kissing in the D-A-R-K
Dark, dark, dark

D-A-R-K D-A-R-K dark dark dark

He made me do the dishes
He made me do the wash
He made me clean his shorts
So I kicked him into squash

I kicked him into London
I kicked him into France
I kicked him to Las Vegas, and he takes of all his under...

Panting after the race,
When I sang a verse
I slap him in the face
And whack 'im wit' my purse!

Additional common lyrics[edit]

Another version, from the early 1900s, begins as follows:[17]

Mary had a steamboat
The steamboat had a bell
Mary went to Heaven
And the steamboat went Toot Toot.[2][3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mayfield, Josh. " Hello Operator" at Inky's Linkies. 3 Apr 2004. Accessed 13 Jan 2014.
  2. ^ a b c Levitt, Paul. Vaudeville Humor: The Collected Jokes, Routines, and Skits of Ed Lowry, p. 125. SIU Press (Carbondale), 2002. Accessed 12 Jan 2014.
  3. ^ a b "Tuyere Blasts". Iowa Transit. October 1924.
  4. ^ Yannucci, Lisa. "When Lucy Had a Steam Boat" at Mama Lisa's World: Children's Songs and Rhymes from Around the World. 2014. Accessed 12 Jan 2014. Ms Yannucci credited her version as from Long Island in the 1970s.
  5. ^ a b c Bohren, Django. "Lulu had a steamboat" at Milk Milk Lemonade. 27 Sept 2010. Accessed 13 Jan 2014.
  6. ^ Crowley, John. Endless Things: A Part of Ægypt, pp. 428 ff. Small Beer Press (Northampton), 2007. Accessed 14 Jan 2014.
  7. ^ Schultz, Emily. Joyland, [books.google.com.hk/books?id=A_d0uAikdR4C&pg=PA82 p. 82]. ECW Press (Toronto), 2006. Accessed 14 Jan 2014.
  8. ^ Including Mary,[2] "Oh, it ain't—",[3] "When Lucy had a steamboat",[4] "Lulu had a steamboat",[5] Miss Sophie,[6] and Miss Molly.[7]
  9. ^ Powell, Azizi. "Similarities & Differences between 'Bang Bang Lulu' & 'Miss Lucy Had a Steamboat'" at Pancocojams. 16 Oct 2013. Accessed 13 Jan 2014.
  10. ^ Cray, Ed. The Erotic Muse: American Bawdy Songs 2nd ed., p. 173 ff. UIP (Champaign), 1999. Accessed 13 Jan 2014.
  11. ^ Logsdon, Guy. The Whorehouse Bells Are Ringing and Other Songs Cowboys Sing, pp. 154 ff. 1995 reprint of UIP (Champaign), 1989. Accessed 13 Jan 2014. (NB: Logsdon's versions are set to the separate tune of the bluegrass traditional "Roll in My Sweet Baby's Arms".)
  12. ^ Hollihan, Kerrie. Rightfully Ours: How Women Won the Vote, p. 78. Chicago Review Press (Chicago), 2012. Accessed 13 Jan 2014.
  13. ^ Henninger, Jessie. "Miss Susie Had a Steamboat: I. Structure" at The Raveled Sleeve. 29 Nov 2008. Accessed 13 Jan 2014.
  14. ^ Smith, Ronald. Comedy on Record: the Complete Critical Discography, p. 634. Garland Publishing, 1988.
  15. ^ Henninger, Jessie. "Miss Susie Had a Steamboat: II. Evolution" at The Raveled Sleeve. 29 Nov 2008. Accessed 13 Jan 2014.
  16. ^ Swede, George. The Steam Tug, p. 17. Xlibris, 2010. Accessed 14 Jan 2014.
  17. ^ a b Henninger, Jessie. "Miss Susie Had a Steamboat: V. Versions of the Rhyme Used in This Essay" at The Raveled Sleeve. 29 Nov 2008. Accessed 12 Jan 2014.
  18. ^ The Mudcat Cafe. "Origins: Ask Me No Questions rhymes" often where the lyrics cut to the same word, only in a different context. Apr 2006. Accessed 13 Jan 2014.
  19. ^ Sherman, Josepha. "Gopher Guts and Army Trucks: The Modern Evolution of Children's Folk Rhymes" in Children's Folklore Review, Vol. 21, No. 2 (Spring 1999). Accessed 12 Jan 2014.
  20. ^ Emilie Autumn (2007). "Miss Lucy had some leeches". Archived from the original on 2016-03-04 – via MetroLyrics.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  21. ^ South Park. "Something You Can Do with Your Finger" at South Park Studios. 2010. Accessed 14 Jan 2014.
  22. ^ South Park. "[[:q:South Park/Season 4#Something You Can Do with Your Finger [4.8]|Something You Can Do with Your Finger]]" at Wikiquote. 2010. Accessed 14 Jan 2014.