👓 Losing Count | The Paris Review

Losing Count by Adrienne Raphel (The Paris Review)
How do nonsensical counting-out rhymes like these enter the lexicon?

I’d read this a year or two ago for a specific purpose and revisited it again today just for entertainment. There’s some interesting history hiding in this sort of exercise.

I also considered these rhymes as simple counting games, but the’re not really used to count up as if they were ordinals. Most people couldn’t even come close to saying how many things they’d have counted if they sang such a song. I also find that while watching children sing these while “counting” they typically do so with a choice for each syllable, but this often fails in the very young so that they can make their own “mental” choice known while still making things seem random. For older kids, with a little forethought and some basic division one can make something seemingly random and turn it into a specific choice as well.

So what are these really and what purpose did they originally serve?