Apathetic, Sympathetic, Diabetic

One Hen
Two Ducks
Three Squawking Geese
Four Limerick Oysters
Five Corpulent Porpoises
Six Pairs of Don Alberto’s Tweezers
Seven Thousand Macedonians in Full Battle Array
Eight Brass Monkeys from the Ancient Sacred Crypts of Egypt
Nine Apathetic, Sympathetic, Diabetic Old Men on Roller Skates with a Marked Propensity towards Procrastination and Sloth
Ten Lyrical, Spherical, Diabolical Denizens of the Deep who Haul Stall around the Quo of the Quay of the Queasy all at the Very Same Time.

Why you ask? Because! This little ditty is something like the Twelve Days of Christmas but with no tune. I guess you are supposed to test your memory with it by starting with One hen. Then One hen, Two ducks. Then One hen, Two ducks, Three squawking geese and so on. Theoretically, one person knows the whole deal and is testing the other person who does not. The further the unknowing gets, umm, the more impressive their memory is? I don’t know.

I also have no idea where this came from, other than my mumses found it in a newspaper or magazine somewhere. She cut it out and we all memorized it like mad for a week or so until we had it cold. Why? I have no idea but there it sits stuck in my head. Forever. And just in case you have any doubts about the wording, I think she still has that sheet of paper in her wallet. I know last Thanksgiving when we were questioning the denizens she rummaged around in her pocket book and *shoop* there it was; this small square of yellowing paper. It may still be there as you read this.

When this started, I also am kinda fuzzy about but I can place it after 1978 when we moved to the lake but before 1988 when I graduated (HA! There you go you stalker types, my age for free!) and I’m guessing that maybe mid eighties is a really good guess. Wasn’t that the craze back then, memory stuff? It seems to me that Merlin and the vastly inferior (but more popular) Simon were both out at that time and concentration was one of the cool card games of the era. Wasn’t there also a game show based on concentration? OH! Where in the World is Carmen San Diego had a whole track the thief thing which was very memory oriented. Loved that show.

Anyway, just thought I’d share a little of the booniverse with you all today. I always wondered who Don Alberto was and what he used 6 tweezers for, why the pattern broke for seven (although that one I liked the best. 7,000 Macedonians in full battle array would look mighty impressive) and the alliteration of eight just makes me smile every time. Have a go at memorizing it, maybe you too will write an entry 15 plus years down the road (from an asylum) and get all the lines letter perfect.

14 Responses to “Apathetic, Sympathetic, Diabetic”

  1. Good Karma Says:

    I stumbled upon your page when searching for these lyrics…I was a camp counselor this summer and this is one of the things we would do at campfire. One person would say “One Hen, Two Ducks, etc.” in front, and everyone else would repeat, and then the person in front would add one more.

    One fun difference is that on the “nine old men” one, we would say “and sloth.” and then everyone in the audience would say “and what?” And we would say “And sloth.” And they would say “Is that anything like cold slaw?” And we would say “You betcha babe.” Then move on to “ten lyrical…”

    I thought this might be interesting to you…have fun!



  2. Mike Says:

    What movie was this in?

  3. dante Says:

    I always thought this “one hen, two ducks etc” routine came from the mind of Jerry Lewis- at least he was the first person I heard recite it- and it was several years prior to 1978. People were always requesting it. For a long time, every time Jerry was on a talk show, someone would request it and he would do it. Thanks for posting it. I lost track of it and had been searching on Google to find it. Finally got a hit by searching on “Macedonians in full battle array” Thanks again.

  4. Sam Says:

    I, too, heard Jerry Lewis recite “one hen, two ducks, . . .”, making Hugh Downs the fall guy trying to remember it. This was verrrrry long ago on his night show. Somehow it has stuck in my mind ever since and I can recite it at will.

  5. Sam Says:

    Actually, in reading the last line over, I remember “haul stall around the quo of the quay of the quivvy all at the same time.”

    Also “Don Alvarzo’s tweezers”

    But there are many different versions of “one hen . . .” online

  6. boo Says:

    Hey y’all…welcome to the booniverse. I have been mightily amused at the number of hits this entry has been generating in the searches. As to movies, I am not sure what movie this might have been in but if you go to http://www.imdb.com and plug it into a search it just might come up. The Data Base rocks for just that reason.

    I think my mumses mentioned this may have come from Jerry Lewis as well, or did TheMan tell me that? Anyway, it has come up in more than one conversation from different sources so I’m beginning to see some merit as that being the origin story. Now watch this whole thing becomes an Urban Legend. Heh.

    Yeah, the last line is a bit mangled as it really doesn’t make much sense to me either. TheMan remembers it differently (and maybe I can get him to post in the comments what he remembers the line as) but as to the tweezers I have seen both Don Alberto’s and Don Alvarzo’s and I like the sound of Alberto better so I’m going with that.

    If I ever run into the piece of paper I’ll post an editorial retraction and that shall be the authoritative list. Until then, you have to live with my garbled memory. Ciao!

  7. Connie Says:

    I can’t believe I found this site! I was telling someone about this little ditty just yesterday, but I could only remember halfway through nine. So this morning I thought, why not see what I can come up with on the internet? Bingo!

    At 51, my memory doesn’t serve me terribly well; but I, too, remember seeing Jerry Lewis do this on tv, and I believe it was in front of Johnny Carson during a “Tonight Show.” And, yes, I had the tweezer guy in my memory as “Don Alverzo.” As soon as I get done here, I’ll probably run a search on him and we’ll find out what his claim to fame was in the tweezer industry…

    I have no idea why this thing is stuck in my head–it had to have been late 60’s or early 70’s when I heard it, and I only heard it once. I can’t remember what I had for lunch yesterday, but I can tell you that 3-23-19 was my fifth grade locker combination. The human brain is a strange thing…

  8. John T. Says:

    I learned the line about the diabectic old men as having a PROFOUND propensity towards procrastion and sloth.
    I used to her this on the radio back in the 1960’s
    on WBZ Boston. The DJ Dick Summer would play it, it was set to music and sung by someone.

  9. Trish Says:

    This is called the “Announcer’s Test”. It originated at Radio Central New York in the early 1940’s as a cold reading test given to prospective radio talent to demonstrate their speaking ability.

    Del Moore, a long time friend of Jerry Lewis’, took this test at Radio Central New York in 1941, and passed it on to him. (Del Moore is best remembered as Dr. Warfield in “The Nutty Professor,” 1963)

    Jerry has performed this test on radio, television and stage for many years, and it has become a favorite tongue twister of his fans around the world.

  10. Kevin Says:

    Okay, I’ll be so brazen to add my two cents to this increasingly recondite discussion…

    My question is about the meaning of the last line. I know what a “quay” is, but what is the “quo” and the “quivvy”? The OED is no help on this.

    By the way, I learned “Don Alfonzo’s tweezers”–that’s oral transmission for you!

  11. JJ Says:

    6 was the one phrase I forgot – but I remember thelast as

    Ten lyrical, spherical, diabolical denizens of the deep who haul stall around the quo of the quarry of the quay all at the same time.

    I too remember seeing Lewis recite this on the Tonight Show as a mnemonic game. I know that it was after 1968 and before 1972. Beyond that no guesses. I loved it the moment I heard it and committed it to memory with the Oh, well That’s Life! and the lyrics to a few choice songs. What fun this has been – it simply popped into my head – I googled the 7,000 Macedonians and up you all came. Dragon’s teeth for the deranged.

  12. Micky Says:

    Re: the last line–I learned this from my siblings in the 60’s, who always said, “…loll, stall…” Makes more sense, as lolling is akin to stalling.

  13. Sue Says:

    Thanks, I used to lie in bed at night trying to remember some of the lines. My favorite was eight brass monkeys…My cousin taught this to me in the 60s and I could say it all correctly then. I had totally forgotten the last line so I can’t offer any insight on the wording, except that “quo” is Latin, meaning “where”.