First of May Bench

By JoCo April 10, 2007

In the continuing celebration of “First of May Month (April)” I pose this holiday question: what the heck is going on here?

Actually, the song was Hodgman’s suggestion (that is actually true). And the whole concept of a dirty rhyme that references the first of May is stolen from some kind of traditional dirty rhyme that people used to say. In the past. Honestly I’m not entirely sure where it originated, but my grandfather used to say it, and I have met other people who’s grandparents used to say it. I think it may have been the Greatest Generation’s equivalent of “Me Chinese, me play joke, me put pee-pee in your Coke.” Anybody have some more definitive explanation?


Mike says

Well, according to at least one source of the arcane wit ("Another Almanac of Words at Play" by Willard R. Espy), it's an old English folk saying that originally went:

"Hurray, hurray! the first of May!
Hedgerow tupping begins today!"

"Tupping" is, apparently, a colorful expression to describe sheep copulation. It's a shame it fell out of use. Ok, maybe not.

Anyway. I discoverd this on them Internets around the time I first heard your song, a year or so ago, and can say that I find your version to be much more evocative. And certainly less archaic. Plus, the concept of "tupping" in a "hedgerow" sounds a bit painful. Especially a poorly groomed one. One could get jabbed in a very personal fashion.

sindex says

Oddly this came up last night. A friend's mother heard First of May and thought it was hilarious. He was understandably surprised that she wasn't at least somewhat offended by it, but she said, "Oh, we used to jump rope to a similar rhyme when I was a kid." Mike (above) seems to have a better grasp of the origins than I do, but apparently it's not unknown to Baby Boomers.

Andrea says

Wow, this is all kind of interesting! Here's something I found on a Wicca FAQ:

This is one of the fire festivals, and the source of a lots of bawdy jokes and allusions. For example, "Hurray, Hurray, the first of May: Outdoor suiving starts today!" refers to making love outdoors. By the first of May in Europe, it's fairly safe to take your beloved out for a romantic encounter. Alas, here in Calgary, the first of May is not generally regarded in such a light. There is always the chance for another snowfall.

Bry says

Mike: I saw JoCo's post, went to the bookshelf, found my copy of Espy's Another Almanac of Words at Play, flipped to 1 May, turned to comment and found you'd beaten me to it by several hours.
I'll scan in the relevant pages, but there's only a couple of lines about the rhyme.

Luke M says

Well, it's Walpurgisnacht, which I first came across in "Illuminatus!" by Shea and Wilson, both in the "outdoor fucking" sense (which is where I first heard the rhyme) and the "founding of the Bavarian Illuminati by Adam Weishaupt on 5/1/1776" sense. It's a big crazy holiday in a lot of traditions. When I first heard the song I thought it might be a reference to "Illuminatus!" but I guess we'd have to ask Hodgman about that.

Darth Paradox says

Well, if JoCo is a Mason now, and Hodgman is an Illuminatus (which wouldn't surprise me in the least), it makes far too much sense for Hodgman to use JoCo to disseminate his message of Walpurgisnacht.

gle3nn says

I have the first almanac of words at play but I didnt know there was another. Thanks Mike and Bry I love those kinds of books. I'm going out to get that one now.

Ken says

> “Tupping” is, apparently, a colorful expression to describe sheep copulation.

One can only imagine the torture that Earl Silas Tupper (the inventor of Tupperware) had to endure as a kid.

> It’s a shame it fell out of use.

I say we bring it back.

Scott Haley says

Is this why Bertie Wooster had a friend called "Tuppy?" This changes my perception of Wodehouse.

There's also the "lusty month of May" song from the Broadway play and movie "Camelot."


Cheyenne Wright says

Related Trivia -- May 1st is also the birthday of Phil Foglio, creator of the much praised sci-fi sex romp comic, XXXenophile. The only 'Adult' comic ever nominated for an Eisner Award.

booksandlibretti says

I think we have different definitions of the greatest generation. ;) I'd cite Morley:

Now is the month of Maying,
When merry lads are playing,*
Each with* his bonny lass
Upon the greeny grass.

The Spring, clad all in gladness,
Doth laugh at Winter's sadness,
And to the bagpipe's sound
The nymphs tread out their ground.*

Fie then! why sit we musing,
Sweet youth's delight* refusing?
Say, dainty nymphs, and speak,
Shall we play at barley-break*?

* have sex

Ed says

I heard James Taylor speak this rhyme in concert. He was introducing his "First of May" song and said he heard his dad say it to himself. The lyrics of his First of May are based on the idea suggested by the rhyme.

JoCo says

Oh man, you mean I stole this idea from JAMES TAYLOR?

Totz the Plaid says

The whole concept was also referenced by Led Zeppelin in 'Stairway to Heaven' with the lines "If there's a bustle in your hedgerow/Don't be alarmed now/It's just a spring-clean for the May Queen"...

There's a grand music and cultural tradition of referencing old 'fertility' rituals, you should be proud to be a major part of it!