Ladies and Gentlemen, Hobos and Tramps

Ladies and Gentlemen,
hobos and tramps.
Cross eyed mosquitos
and bow-legged ants.
Pull up a chair,
and sit on the floor,
I'll tell you a story
you've heard before*

One bright day
in the middle of the night
two dead boys
got into a fight
they stood back to back
and faced each other
pulled out to guns
and stabbed each other
a deaf policeman heard the noise
pulled out a knife
and shot both boys
If you don't believe me
this lie is true
just ask the blind man -
he saw it too!


This one was told to me in 1990 or 91 in Iowa, and Sherman collected an identical version dating to the 1960s, but it goes back a LONG time. Like, really long. In Iona Opie's "Language and Lore of School Children" (1959), she lists the following variation:

Ladles and jellyspoons
I stand upon this speech to make a platform
the train I arrived in has not yet come
so I took a bus and walked
I come before you to stand behind you
and tell you something I know nothing about!

One fine day in the middle of the night
two dead men got up to a fight
back to back they faced each other
drew their swords and shot each other
a paralysed donkey passing by
kicked a blind man in the eye
knocked him through a nine inch wall
into a dry ditch and drowned them all.
.

Opie noted that this had been collected in 12 different schools around the UK, but that it had also been collected, with almost no variation, fifty years before. It was probably older than that, too. There was nursery rhyme about two dead horses running a race (with the blind spectators looking on) in 1830, and something similar was noted in the pocket book of a minstrel in 1480

I saw some headless playing at ball
and a handless man served them all
While some mouthless men lay and low
and some legless men away them drove


(My own crude translation of the 15th century English). This doesn't mean that the current rhyme is actually descended from the 15th century joke - it's important to remember that "similar to" doesn't always mean "descended from." But, heck, there's also no reason that this joke couldn't have evolved into the one on playgrounds to this day.


Again, plenty of variations go around - add the ones you heard in the comments! It had morphed into the version I heard by at least the 1970s, but even that specific version is probably a lot older than that.

39 comments:

  1. I heard this from my cousin in 1968.

    Labels and Jellyspoons,
    Hobos and Tramps.
    Cross-eyed Mosquitoes,
    and Bow-legged Ants.
    I have come before you,
    to stand behind you
    and tell you a story I
    know nothing about.

    In Fourteen Hundred and Ninety-Three
    Columbus sailed the Puddle Gray with
    the Star-Speckled Banana Peel in one hand
    and the Declaration of Indigestion in the
    other.

    As Chris was strolling one
    summer's night the two dead
    boys got up to fight.
    Back to back they faced each
    other, drawing their swords
    they shot each other.
    If you don't believe my story
    is true, ask Chris and the
    blind man for they saw it too.

    My Cousin had told my brother and I at the time that he and a friend had made it up, but I suspect that perhaps my Grandfather, who loved jokes may have told it to him. My Grandfather performed on Vaudeville Stages in the 1920's.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I was taught a variation in the third grade. I cannot remember who taught it to me.

    Ladies and Gentlemen,
    Horses and Cows,
    Cross-eyed mosquitoes,
    And Bow-legged fleas,
    I come before you,
    To stand behind you,
    To tell you something,
    I know nothing about.
    Thursday, which is Good Friday,
    We will have a women's meeting,
    For men only.
    Admission's free,
    Pay at the door,
    Bring a chair,
    Sit on the floor.

    One bright morning,
    In the middle of the night,
    Two dead boys,
    Got up to fight.
    Back to back,
    They faced each other,
    Drew their swords,
    and shot each other.
    A deaf policeman heard the noise,
    Came and shot those two dead boys.
    If you'd like to know more,
    Ask the blind man on the corner.
    He saw it all.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I heard it (on a forwarded text message a while back)

    one fine day
    in the middle of the night
    two dead boys
    got up to fight
    back to back
    they faced each other
    drew their swords
    and shot each other.
    the deaf policeman heard the noise
    ran up and caught the two dead boys.
    If you don't think this story is true,
    ask the blind man. He saw it, too.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Around 1962 Tim Knoll (b.1950, d. 2001), then of Harper Woods, Michigan, outside of Detroit, told me this version on the playground of St. Peter Catholic School:


    Ladies and gentlemen, hobos and tramps,
    Cross-eyed mosquitoes and bow-legged ants,
    I stand right before you to sit right behind you,
    To tell you a story I know nothing about.
    As you know next Tuesday is Good Friday,
    There will be a Ladies' Club, strictly for men.
    No charge, pay at the door.
    Pull up a seat and sit on the floor.

    Years later I found the following page about Tim, a member of one of the Tribes of the Cass Corridor in Detroit.

    Tim Knoll, 51, was dedicated to family, biking and jug bands

    http://corridortribe.com/obits/tim_knoll.htm

    ReplyDelete
  5. Charleston, MO 1969

    Ladies and Gentlemen
    Hobos and tramps
    cross-eyed mosquitos
    and bow-legged ants

    I've come before you
    to stand behind you
    to tell you something
    I know nothing about.

    This Thursday
    which is Good Friday
    There will be a mother's meeting
    for fathers only
    Admission is free
    please pay at the door
    Pull up a chair
    and sit on the floor.

    The discussion will be about
    four corners of a round table
    and two dead boys.

    One bright sunny morning
    in the middle of the night
    the two dead boys
    got up to fight

    Back to back they faced each other
    drew out their swords
    and shot each other.

    A deaf policeman
    heard the noise
    went in and shot
    the two dead boys

    And if you don't believe me
    just ask the blind man
    He saw it all.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Sa Diego, CA 1980

    Ladies and gentlemen
    hobos and tramps
    cross eyed mosquitoes and bowlegged ants
    I stand here before behind you
    to tell you a story I know nothing about

    Early one morning
    late one night
    two dead boys got up to fight
    Back to back they faced each other
    drew their swords and shot each other

    A deaf cop heard the noise
    came and shot the two dead boys

    If you don't believe my lie is true
    ask the blind man
    he saw it too

    ReplyDelete
  7. SW Louisiana ~1985

    Ladies and gentlemen
    hobos and tramps
    admission is free
    pay at the door
    pull up a chair
    and sit on the floor
    as I tell you a tale
    that I do not know
    about two dead boys
    who got up to fight
    one bright morning
    in the middle of the night

    They stood back to back
    as they faced each other
    drew their swords
    and shot each other

    A deaf police man
    heard the noise
    came and arrested
    those two dead boys

    Now if you dont believe this lie is true
    ask the blind man
    he saw it too!

    ReplyDelete
  8. James AraSmith
    I learned this versionin Kansas in the 80's

    Ladies and gentlemen
    Hobos and tramps
    Cross-eyed mosquitos
    And bow-legged ants
    I stand before you
    To sit behind you
    To tell you a story
    I know nothing about

    Last Saturday
    which was Good Friday
    I was driving my empty
    Truckload of bricks
    Down the back alley
    In front of my house
    I ran over my dead cat
    And nearly killed it
    I rushed it to the horse doctor
    To see king Arthur
    Sitting in the right hand corner
    Of a round table
    Eating vinegar with a fork
    Telling about a woman’s aid meeting
    For men only
    Free admission
    Pay at the door
    Pull up a chair
    And sit on the floor
    Early in the morning
    Late last night
    Two dead boys
    Got up to fight
    Back to back
    They faced each other
    Drew their swords
    And shot each other
    The deaf policeman
    Heard the noise
    And came and shot the life
    Out of those two dead boys
    If you don’t believe
    My lie is true
    Ask the blind man
    He saw it too

    ReplyDelete
  9. The version I grew up with (Kentucky in the mid-60's) started out:

    Ladies and Gentlemen
    Animals and Crocodiles
    I come before you
    to stand behind you
    to tell you something I know nothing about.

    Last Thursday, which was Good Friday,
    the ladies held a meeting that was strictly for men....

    the rest is basically the same as the others.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Ottawa, Canada, circa 1972. As told to me by my elder brother. I was about 10 years old.

    Ladies and Gentlemen, Hobos and Tramps,
    Cross-eyed mosquitoes and bow-legged ants.

    I stand here before you to sit down behind you,
    To tell you a story I know nothing about.

    This coming Tuesday, which is Good Friday,
    There will be a meeting for men only, so everyone's invited.

    Admission is free, so pay at the door,
    Pull up a chair and sit on the floor.

    Now....this is my story.

    One bright day in the middle of the night,
    Two dead boys got up to fight.

    Back to back they faced each other,
    Drew their swords and shot each other.

    A deaf policeman heard this noise,
    Came running in and shot these two dead boys.

    And if you don't believe this lie....

    Ask the blind man, he saw it too.

    No offense to other posters and the multitude of other variations one can find online, but I find this version has better rhythm and timing.

    ReplyDelete
  11. This is My Favorite Version of it Since it makes more sense then any others I've heard, I received it in an E-mail from aJokeaDay.com ☺

    Ladies and gentlemen, hobos and tramps,
    Bug-eyed mosquitoes and bowlegged ants!
    I'm about to tell you a story I've never heard before,
    So pull up a chair and sit on the floor.
    Admission is free, so pay at the door.

    One fine day, in the middle of the night,
    two, dead boys got up to fight.
    Back to back, they faced each other,
    drew their swords and shot each other.
    A deaf policeman heard the noise,
    and saved the lives of the two dead boys.
    If you don't believe my lies are true,
    ask the blind man, he saw it too!

    ReplyDelete
  12. My father use say this all the time, it is a combo of them all. My father was born in 1921 and died in 1979. I have been saying this to my children. there was another one he used to say but all I can remember all of that one is: "Poor little fly on the wall, he ain't got no clothes at all".My father was born and raised in the San Francisco bay area.
    jfnewton@hotmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  13. Ladies and gentlemen, hobos and tramps,
    Cross-eyed mosquitoes and bow-legged ants,
    I stand before you to sit behind you,
    To tell you a story I know nothing about.
    There will be a meeting Next Tuesday which is Good Friday at the round table with four corners
    Admission is free pay at the door, pull up a chair
    and sit on the floor.


    My Dad learned that in school in the 60's and I was just looking it up to see how everyone else said it lol.

    ReplyDelete
  14. My Father had a version of this very same poem and I always loved it when he began to say it. It was similar to some of these others. If I remember right it was something like this:
    Ladies and Gentlemen, Hobos and Tramps,
    Bow legged spiders and bow legged ants,
    I stand here before because I'm not behind you,
    I am here to tell you a story I know nothing about.
    George Washington sailed down the Missisloppy River with a Start Bangled Banner in one hand and a speckled banana in the other


    and it did have something in it about pull up a chair and sit on the floor.

    My Dad dropped out of School in the 6th grade and he was from Bath County Kentucky. He was born in 1922 and died in 1991 of Cancer. He had a version of a poem including all the Soap Operas on TV as well. It was amazing.

    Also he had a poem he use to say frequently that is awesome so if anyone out there has never head of this one (When I was young my slippers were red), you might want to Google it. It is awesome as well. Have a blessed day.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I heard this one from my friend...

    Ladies and gentlemen
    Hobos and tramps
    cross eyed mosquitos
    bow legged ants
    I stand before you
    To stand behind you
    to adress you
    Not undress you
    That next Thursday
    which is good Friday
    there is a mothers day meeting
    For fathers only
    admission is free
    So pay at the door
    Grab a chair
    And sit on the floor
    I'm here to tell you
    About something I know nothing about
    One fine day
    In the middle of the night
    Two dead boys
    got up to fight
    Back to back they faced eachother
    drew there swords
    and shot one another
    the deaf policemen
    Heard the noise
    And came to arrest
    the two dead boys
    If you don't believe
    This lie is true
    Ask the blind man
    He saw too!

    ReplyDelete
  16. My grandfather told my mother this...and she told it to me.

    Ladies and gentlemen hobos and tramps
    Crosseyed mosquitos and bow legged ants
    Last Teusday early Monday morning
    an empty truck loaded with bricks ran over a dead cat
    we rushed it to the hospital as slow as we could to find king Aurthor the third sitting at the corner of a round table eating vinegar with a fork.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Ladies and gentlemen, hobos and tramps, cross-eyed mosquitoes and bow-legged ants: I am here before you, to stand behind you, to tell you something I know nothing about. Next Thursday being in the good week of Friday, there will be a ladies convention for men only. Admission is free, so pay at the door, pull up a seat and sit on the floor.

    Now I may begin.

    Christopher Cucumber sailed down the missasloppy river with a Star-Speckled Banana in one hand
    and the Declaration of Indigestion in the
    other.

    One fine day in the middle of the night, two dead boys got up to fight. Back to back they face to face, they pulled out their swords and shot one another. The deaf cop down the street heard the noise and came to arrest the two dead boys. If you don't believe this story is true, ask the blind man, he saw it too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I heard this as a child in Dalton, GA. It would have been sometime between 1988 and 1993.

      Delete
  18. Ladies and Jellybeans,
    Hobos and tramps,
    crosseyed mosquitos and bow legged ants.
    I stand here behind but not before you
    to tell you a story I kow nothing about.

    Last night at about one o'clock this morning
    an empty dump truck filled with bricks
    ran over a dead cat which we rushed to the hospital
    deperately trying to save its life, and there we found
    King Arthur, eating vinegar with a fork.



    My dad told me this one. I think he got it in an
    e-mail.

    ReplyDelete
  19. St. Louis Mo. Actually just south of StL. Arnold Mo. In the middle 1960's
    My version goes something like this:
    Ladies and jellybeans, hobos and tramps, cross-eyed bug beans and bow legged ants---I am hear to tell you a story I've never even heard about---It's about George Washingmachine crossing the Mississloppy River and in his hand he held the star spangled banana.
    And then:
    Ladies and jellybeans, hobos and tramps, cross-eyed bug beans and bow legged ants---I am here to tell you a story I've never even heard about---one dark day in the middle of the night two dead boys got up to fight, they drew their swords and shot each other---a deaf policeman heard the noise and came to arrest the two dead boys---and if you don't believe me ask the blind man, he saw it all!

    My buddy Pat taught me this stuff and the teacher let us tell it to the class!!!

    I am 57 years old and I can't believe I remember these things or not!!!

    I wish I knew where Pat got the jokes---but I don't---did i mention I am 57 years old---Bruce,Greenwood Arkansas.

    ReplyDelete
  20. One bright morning in the middle of the night
    Two dead boys came out to fight
    Back to back, they faced each other
    Drew their swords and shot each other

    One deaf policeman heard this noise
    And came and shot those two dead boys
    If you don't believe this lie is true
    Ask the blind man, he saw it too!

    Circa 1990

    ReplyDelete
  21. I learn this around 1970 from my friends on my block:

    Ladies and gentlemen, hobos and tramps
    beetles and roaches and bold legged ants
    this is a story I know nothing about
    so pull up a chair and sit on the floor
    admission is free so pay at the door

    One bright sunny morning in the middle of the night
    two dead men got up to fight
    one was blind, the other couldn't see
    so they picked a dummy for referree

    back to back they stared at each pother
    pulled out a knife and shot one another
    the blind policeman who heard the noise
    pulled out a gun a stabbed the boys

    If you don't believe these lies which are true
    ask the blindman he saw them too

    ReplyDelete
  22. Ladies and Gentlemen, Horses and Cows
    I stand before you and sit behind you
    and tell you something I know nothing about.

    Tuesday, which is also Good Friday, there
    will be a meeting of the Women's Club,
    for men only. Admission is free...
    Pay at the door. Pull up a chair... And
    sit on the floor.

    There will be a speech about George Washington
    sailing down the missessloppysliver River
    Singing the Star Spangled Banana.

    ReplyDelete
  23. I heard this in Worcester, in late 2012 by my science teacher

    Ladies and gentlemen, Hobos and tramps,
    Crossed mosquitoes and bow legged ants.
    I come before you to stand behind you to tell you something I know nothing about.
    One bright morning in the middle of the night.
    Two dead heroes began to fight.
    Back to back they faced each other.
    Drew their swords and shot each other.
    A deaf policeman heard the noise, and came and shot those two dead boys.
    If you don't believe me ask the blind man; He saw it all.
    So don't you laugh when a hearse drives by, for you may be the next to die.
    They'll wrap you up in a big white sheet.
    Then bury you down about 6 feet deep.
    It all goes well for about one week, then your coffin starts to leak.
    The worms crawl in the worms crawl out.
    The worms play pinocle on your snot.
    You turn a slick and slimy green.
    Puss comes out like whipping cream.
    All at the end of a beautiful day,
    And me without my spoon

    ReplyDelete
  24. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  25. It's been awhile, but I think I got it mostly right. My father told me this one, it was probably 10 - 15 years ago. I actually got in a huge discussion with a teacher once who wasn't letting me use this for an assignment because I couldn't find an exact quotable version

    "Ladies and Gentlemen, Hobos and Tramps.
    Cross-Eyed Mosquitoes and Bull Legged Ants.

    I stand before, to sit behind you, to tell you a story I know nothing about.

    Admission is free so pay at the door.
    Pull up a seat and sit on the floor.

    One fine day in the middle of the night, three dead men got up to fight.
    They drew their swords and shot each other.
    A deaf policeman who heard it all came to rescue the three dead men.

    If you do not believe my story is true, ask the blind man, he say it all to."

    ReplyDelete
  26. My Grammy told me this one.... perhaps she was just plain off kilter...but I laughed and remembered it... nonetheless.

    Ladies and Gentlemen
    Hobos and Tramps
    Cross Eyed Mosqeeters (Say it right y'all)
    and bow legged ants,

    I come before you
    to stand behind you
    To tell you sometin (wink)
    I know nothin' about...

    Early this mornin'
    Abour 4pm...
    an empty truck
    loaded with bricks
    Ran over my poor dead cat

    We rushed him to the hospital
    as slowly as possible

    ...But when we got there
    we saw Ole' King Cole
    Under the table tryin' to eat
    vinegar with a fork.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Ladies and Gentlemen,Hobos and Tramps,
    Crosseyed mosquitoes and bowlegged ants.
    As I stand here before you and not behind you,
    I'll tell you a story I know nothing about.
    One bright morning, late at night,
    two dead boys got up to fight.
    They faced each other back to back,
    Drew their swords and shot each other.
    A deaf policeman heard the noise,
    And came and killed the two dead boys.

    This was taught to me by my mother and always recited by the whole family on long car trips - to keep us kids from fighting with each other, I'm sure. It would have been in Arkansas in the 1960s, when cars didn't have anything that would make trips more comfortable, and even radio stations were few and far between.

    ReplyDelete
  28. ok ok
    Ladies and gentlemen
    Hobos and tramps
    Cross-eye grasshoppers
    And long-legged ants.
    I come before you
    To stand behind you
    To tell you a tale
    I do not know.
    So pull up a chair
    And sit on the floor
    I'll start with my tale
    And tell you no more.
    One dark night in the middle of the day
    Two dead boys got up to play.
    Back to back they faced each other
    Drew their swords and shot each other.
    A deaf policeman heard the noise.
    Came running and shot those two dead boys.
    If you do not believe this tale is true,
    Ask the blind man...he saw it too.

    This has been going on in my family (from the Chicago area originally, late 1940's) for at least 5 generations and will probably continue and spread out as we have done.

    ReplyDelete
  29. This was told to me by my dad in the mid 70's in Tennessee

    Ladies and Gentlemen hobos and tramps
    cockeyed mosquitoes and bowlegged ants

    I've come here to stand before you
    Sit behind you
    and tell you a story I know nothing about

    Admission is free
    Pay at the Door
    Bring your own seat
    And sit on the floor

    One fine Day in the middle of the night
    Two dead boys got up to fight
    Back to Back they faced each other
    Drew their swords and shot each other
    The deaf policeman heard the noise and
    Came to shoot the two dead boys

    If you don't believe my tale is true
    Ask the blind man he saw it too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ladles and jellyspoons, hobos and tramps,
      cross-eyed mosquitos and bow-legged ants,
      I stand before you to sit behind you
      to tell you something I know nothing about.
      Next Thursday, which is Good Friday,
      there's a Mother's Day meeting for fathers only;
      wear your best clothes if you haven't any.
      Please come if you can't; if you can, stay at home.
      Admission is free, pay at the door;
      pull up a chair and sit on the floor.
      It makes no difference where you sit,
      the man in the gallery's sure to spit.
      The show is over, but before you go,
      let me tell you a story I don't really know.
      One bright day in the middle of the night,
      two dead boys got up to fight.
      (The blind man went to see fair play;
      the mute man went to shout "hooray!")
      Back to back they faced each other,
      drew their swords and shot each other.
      A deaf policeman heard the noise,
      and came and killed the two dead boys.
      A paralysed donkey passing by
      kicked the blind man in the eye;
      knocked him through a nine-inch wall,
      into a dry ditch and drowned them all.
      If you don't believe this lie is true,
      ask the blind man; he saw it too,
      through a knothole in a wooden brick wall.
      And the man with no legs walked away.

      Delete
  30. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Ladies and Jellybeans,
    Hobos and Tramps,
    Cross-eyed mosquitoes,
    and bow-legged ants,

    I'm here to address you,
    and not to undress you,
    about an incident that happened last night,
    about three in the morning,
    I ran over a dead cat and nearly killed it

    I rushed it to the hospital and who did I see
    but King Arthur sitting at the end of a round table
    Eating vinegar with a fork

    (Passed to me from my mom, who is from east Iowa.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My mom was born in 1962 and she picked it up when she was young from the kids in her neighborhood (Manchester, IA), who were always layin down the limericks.

      Delete
    2. Ladies and gentlemen, hobos and tramps, cross-eyed mosquitoes and bow-legged ants: I am here before you, to stand behind you, to tell you something I know nothing about

      In the darkness, at the middle of day a slow garbage truck came speeding towards my house, hit my dead cat and almost killed him

      We got to the vets just in time to have puppies, when we got home we sat at the corners of our round kitchen table to eat our plate of vinegar with a fork


      (Got this version from my teacher)

      Delete
  32. Heard in 2006, Northwestern PA:

    Ladies and gentlemen,
    Reptiles and crocodiles,
    I stand before you, not behint you,
    I am here to address you, not undress you!
    On Wednesday, which is Good Friday,
    There will be a ladies meeting for MEN ONLY,
    So pull up a chair and sit on the floor.
    The guest speaker for the event will be Benjamin Cucumber,
    Who will speak on his adventures sailing up the Mississloppy River.
    There he saw two dead boys pull out their swords and shoot each other.
    Two deaf policemen, who heard the noise, pulled out their knives, ran over, and shot those two dead boys.

    ReplyDelete
  33. I heard this from my dad
    I come before you, to stand behind you,
    To tell you something I know nothing about.
    Next Thursday, which is Good Friday,
    There will be a mothers' meeting for fathers only.
    Admission is free, pay at the door,
    Pull up a seat and sit on the floor.
    We will be discussing the four corners of the round table.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Ladies and Gentlemen
    Alligators and Crocodiles
    I come before you
    To stand behind you
    And show you the hairs on my bald head

    Thursday being Good Friday
    There'll be a mother's meeting for men only
    3, pay at the door
    Bring your own seats and sit on the floor

    Eating hot potatoes raw
    Boiled beef and cabbage

    ReplyDelete

PLEASE tell us where and when you heard your version (ie, "Chicago, early 1950s). And please be aware that the information may end up in a book sooner or later.