Mary Mack

For other uses, see Mary Mack (disambiguation).
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"Mary Mack" ("Miss Mary Mack") is a clapping game played by children in English-speaking countries. It is known in various parts of the United States, Australia, Canada, and in New Zealand and has been called "the most common hand-clapping game in the English-speaking world".[1]

In the game, two children stand or sit opposite to each other, and clap hands in time to a rhyming song.

The same song is also used as a jumprope rhyme,[2] although rarely so according to one source.[3]


Various versions of the song exist; a common version goes:

Miss Mary Mack, Mack, Mack
All dressed in black, black, black
With silver buttons, buttons, buttons [butt'ns]
All down her back, back, back.
(She could not read, read, read
She could not write, write, write,
But she could smoke, smoke, smoke
Her father's, pipe, pipe, pipe)
She asked her mother, mother, mother
for fifty cents, cents, cents
To see the elephants, elephants, elephants (or hippos)
Jump the fence, fence, fence.
They jumped so high, high, high
they reached the sky, sky, sky
And didn't come back, back, back
Till the 4th of July, 'ly, 'ly!
July can't walk, walk, walk
July can't talk, talk, talk
July can't eat, eat, eat
With a knife and fork, fork, fork).
She asked her mother, mother, mother
For 5 cents more, more, more
To see the elephants, elephants, elephants
Jump over the door, door, door.
They jumped so low, low, low
They stubbed their toe, toe, toe
And that was the end, end, end,
Of the elephant show, show, show!

In some variations, Mary Mack asks her mother for fifteen cents rather than fifty.[4] These variations may represent an earlier version of the song. It changed because of the speed of the rhyme and the similarity of the spoken words "fifteen" and "fifty", and because there were few things one could buy with fifteen cents in the later part of the 20th century.


A common version of the accompanying clap is as follows:

Another version:[5]

Another Version: Pat thighs clap hands clap partners right hand clap hands clap partners left hand clap hands clap both partners hands clap hands repeat Another Version:


Possible origins

The first verse, without the repetition, is also a riddle with the answer "coffin".[6]

Early mentions of the part about the elephant do not include the part about Mary Mack.[7][8]


The origin of the name Mary Mack is obscure, and various theories have been proposed. According to one theory, Mary Mack originally referred to the USS Merrimack, a United States warship of the mid-1800s named after the Merrimack River, that would have been black, with silvery rivets. This may suggest that the first verse refers to the Battle of Hampton Roads during the American Civil War.

See also

"Walking The Dog", a 1960s R&B song by Rufus Thomas with lyrics based on "Mary Mack".


  1. Gaunt, Kyra Danielle. The Games Black Girls Play: Learning the Ropes from Double-Dutch to Hip-hop. NYU Press. p. 63. ISBN 0-8147-3120-1. Retrieved 2011-04-08.
  2. Gaunt, Games Black Girls Play, p. 68
  3. Cole, Joanna (1989). Anna Banana: 101 Jump-rope Rhymes. HarperCollins. p. 13. ISBN 0-688-08809-0. Retrieved 2011-04-08.
  4. Bronner, Simon J. (2006). American Children's Folklore. August House. p. 65. ISBN 0-87483-068-0.
  5. Bernstein, Sara (1994). Hand Clap!, p.88-9. ISBN 1-55850-426-5. Rhythm not provided.
  6. Odum, Howard W. (1928). Rainbow Round My Shoulder: The Blue Trail of Black Ulysses (2006 ed.). Indiana University Press. p. 33. ISBN 0-253-21854-3. Retrieved 2011-04-08.
  7. Heath, Lilian M. (1902). Eighty Good Times Out of Doors. Fleming H. Revell Co. p. 186. Retrieved 2011-04-08.
  8. Day, Holman F. (1905). Squire Phin: A Novel. A. L. Burt Co. p. 21. Retrieved 2011-04-08.
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