“Mother, May I Go to Swim”


"Mother, may I go out to swim? Yes, my darling daughter. Hang your clothes on a hickory limb But don't go near the water."


This is primarily a floating verse, but apparently exists also independently (as in Brown), so here it files. Most of the entries listed are songs borrowing the verse.

The Baring-Goulds quote Ditchfield to the effect that this goes back to the sixth century writer Hierocles. The joke may be the same, but I strongly doubt literary dependence. - RBW

Cross references


  • May Kennedy McCord, "The Singing Alphabet" (AFS; on LC12 -- the recording cited by Randolph)


  1. BrownIII 325, "Mother, May I Go to Swim" (1 text)
  2. Randolph 873, "The Alphabet Song" (6 texts, 6 tunes, the "A" text has this verse)
  3. Opie-Oxford2 360, "Mother may I go and bathe?" (2 texts)
  4. Baring-Gould-MotherGoose #879, p. 327, "(Mother, may I go out to swim?)"
  5. DT, (DRLDAUGH -- probably a composed song borrowing this stanza)
  6. Roud #3303
  7. BI, Br3325


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1939 (Randolph)
Found in: US(SE,So) Canada(Ont)