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Recently, over in SFF Chronicles, a poem was given as a question and the answer was then accepted as Fungus the Bogeyman (written by Raymond Briggs in 1977)

However I'm aware of chanting a almost identical version of this poem in the school playground back in 1965;

Scab and matter custard,
Snot and bogey pie,
Dead dog's giblets,
Green cat's eye.

Spread it on bread,
Spread it on thick,
Wash it all down. With a cup of cold sick.

My question is, clearly this poem wasn't written in 1977 for Fungus the Bogeyman, so where did it actually originate?

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    As far as I've been able to see, it's a common nursery rhyme, but not sure how far back it dates. shkrobius.wordpress.com/2014/02/16/… provides a couple of regional examples
    – Peter
    Commented May 18, 2023 at 7:17
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    Doesn't seem to be science fiction or fantasy. You can ask poetry identification questions at literature stack exchange.
    – user14111
    Commented May 18, 2023 at 7:52
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    Well Fungus the Bogeyman is fantasy and the poem is part of the story.....if I asked what model Ford Anglia was used in Harry Potter then I wouldn't expect to be told to go to a motoring site
    – Danny Mc G
    Commented May 18, 2023 at 12:48
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    One of the quotes for the IMDB entry for the 1970 movie Girly has this poem, and it also appears in a 1950 collection of children's rhymes by Iona and Peter Opie. This Q might be better for Mythology and Folklore SE, but these types of questions appear often enough here.
    – Spencer
    Commented May 18, 2023 at 15:51
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    Games, Rhymes, and Wordplay of London Children (N. Kelsey, 2019) has a 1920s version, "Caterpillar sandwich spread on thick, then washed down with a cup of cold sick". Attributed to an unpublished manuscript Heritage of the Streets by Rowland Kellett held by the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library.
    – alexg
    Commented May 18, 2023 at 16:13

1 Answer 1

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The origins of this will be surrounded in mystery, but it comes from a school-ground rhyme, which is possibly associated with the advent of "School Dinners" in the UK during World War II. School dinners are a free[?] cooked meal, government provided, during the middle of the school day. Dinner = Lunch/Luncheon in many other English speaking parts of the world. This would date the rhyme to the 1940's.

Iona and Peter Opie, a famed pair of British ethnologists and folklorists, wrote a book called "The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren" (Oxford University Press, 1959), which looked at the play-ground usage of language and slang, and the retention of these sorts of rhymes over time. They have an almost exact version of this rhyme on page 162 in the linked copy below, along with some other regional variants, but don't ascribe a date for origin.

The book is available on Archive.org, this is the 1967 edition.

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