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Counting rhymes are as we know, used for determining who is it.So last week, we were playing chili-chili-water, and my friend told me that the counting rhynme "Eenie Meenie Miney Moe" actually had a meaning. I asked him but he wouldn't tell me. Could someone quietly explain what the rhyme meant?

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What the heck is chili-chili-water? –  MT_Head May 24 '11 at 8:08
    
Oh, it's really cool. Basically a game of tag with the rules modified. Several people are it, and they run around catching people. Every time they catch someone they shout "chilli!" If you're caught, you can't move unless someone touches you(while shouting "water!"). The game ends when everyone is chillied –  Thursagen May 24 '11 at 8:11
    
Sounds like fun! I've lived in California all my life and had never heard of it; I wonder whether we play similar games that are unknown elsewhere? "Red Rover", perhaps? –  MT_Head May 24 '11 at 8:22
    
By the way - I was just looking at the Wikipedia entry for your question, and I certainly couldn't do better... I think your friend might have been hinting at the racist version? –  MT_Head May 24 '11 at 8:26
    
HOOROO! someone plays "Red Rover!!" Do you play "British Bulldogs?" How about..."Hot and Cold Batteries?" –  Thursagen May 24 '11 at 11:08

1 Answer 1

up vote 3 down vote accepted

It seems to mean "One, two, three four", as stated here:

One major theory about the origins of the rhyme is that it is descended from Old English or Celtic counting, as can be seen in the East Anglian Shepherd's count, "Ina, mina, tehra, methera" or the Cornish "Eena, mea, mona, mite".

from a Wikipedia article. I'm aware, that Wiki isn't considered a very reliable source around here, but this theory seems to be legitimate

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But that ISN'T how one counts in Cornish... "Numbers in the Cornish language Kernewek: 0 – mann 1 – onan 2 – dew 3 – tri 4 – peswar 5 – pymp 6 – hwegh 7 – seyth 8 – eth 9 – naw 10 – deg 11 – unnek 12 – dewdhek." I can't immediately find a source for East Anglian, but I'll predict that, again, "one" will be superficially similar to "eenie" and the rest will be nothing like. –  MT_Head May 24 '11 at 15:02
    
There are a whole bunch of pre-celtic counting words still used (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yan_Tan_Tethera) but none of them seem to fit ene-mene... –  mgb May 24 '11 at 15:43
    
Well, the author of this wiki article claims, that this information comes from this source: I. Opie and P. Opie, The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1951, 2nd edn., 1997), pp. 156-8. –  Philoto May 25 '11 at 8:45
    
And theres another article (phrases.org.uk/meanings/eeny-meeny-miny-mo.html), which seems to confirm the theory, although explicitly states, that it is nothing more than that - a theory. –  Philoto May 25 '11 at 8:57

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