Appalachia Rhymes

One For The Money

One for the money rhyme

One for the money,
Two for the show,
Three to make ready,
And four for the go.

According to The Frank C. Brown Collection of North Carolina Folklore the rhyme One For The Money was commonly used to start a footrace and was known by children throughout NC back in the days when Brown was collecting folklore.

One for the money,
Two for the show;
Three makes ready,
And here I go.

I think people of my generation would more likely connect the saying to Carl Perkins’ song Blue Suede Shoes-which was also recorded by Elvis.

When I was a kid we said “Ready; Set; GO!” before a footrace or a bicycle race. Do you remember hearing the rhyme above used before a race? If so what area of the country were you in?


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  • Reply
    Mary Lou McKillip
    March 22, 2014 at 8:23 pm

    Tipper, it is so good to hear those rhymes again. We need to stay one of the money two for show. We should keep the merry heart, nimble feet and swift to get ready then go. Life is so grand if we stop and take notes and be happy. Some of it will rub off on others, want to bet?

  • Reply
    March 21, 2014 at 8:09 pm

    I was born in NW PA (Erie County), and we said “One for the money, Two for the show, Three to get ready, and Four to go.” Almost like the first one, but not quite.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    Jeanette Minix
    March 21, 2014 at 4:56 pm

    Here in the Ozarks we used the one for the money rhyme, get, set, go and ready, set, go. Thing is, being from the Ozarks of Missouri is nearly the same as being from Appalachia, seeing as how most of our ancestors came here from there.

  • Reply
    March 21, 2014 at 4:05 pm

    In England we always started races with “Ready,steady,GO!” which interestingly was also adopted by pop music, as the name of music programme on TV. As for “Blue Suede Shoes” it’s the answer to the baffling question “Which Elvis Presley song begins with the word “Wurlitzer”? You just go and listen to it!

  • Reply
    Suzi Phillips
    March 21, 2014 at 1:31 pm

    I didn’t get a chance yesterday to thank everybody for their help on “hootendasher”- lots of great suggestions! For the meaning of “up against the naked rooster” go back to yesterday’s post. Thanks ya’ll!

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    March 21, 2014 at 12:38 pm

    Sometimes it was “ready, set, go”, but
    in PE when we did sprints, a whistle
    was used. The whistle worked better
    cause some would start too early.
    Thanks for all the prayers for my
    friend, he came thru the Open By-pass
    just fine…Ken

  • Reply
    Mrs. V
    March 21, 2014 at 11:30 am

    We used the rhyme mostly for jumping games, running games & speed drills for math were “On your mark, get set, go!” on the KC side of Mo.

  • Reply
    Roy Pipes
    March 21, 2014 at 10:56 am

    I have used it or heard it hundreds of time. Now, One for the money, two …
    Brings back great memories.

  • Reply
    March 21, 2014 at 10:49 am

    We said “On your mark, get set…GO!” and now I have Blue Suede Shoes on autorepeat in my head…will have to listen to some of your playlist!

  • Reply
    Joyce Taylor
    March 21, 2014 at 10:32 am

    I remember using both, ready, set, go and one for the money as a child. I`m in south central Ohio.

  • Reply
    jane bolden
    March 21, 2014 at 10:11 am

    Yes,I remember in Atlanta. My mother would say the rhyme with go cat go at the end.

  • Reply
    March 21, 2014 at 10:01 am

    I remember that saying. We usually used it before we started a game or an activity. Let’s go!

  • Reply
    Steve in Tn
    March 21, 2014 at 9:35 am

    I always heard one for the money
    Two for the show
    Three to get ready
    Now go cat go

  • Reply
    March 21, 2014 at 9:29 am

    I’ve used that rhyme with Kansas and Tennessee cousins and Texas school mates to begin competitions such as who could hula hoop for the longest time, bounce a basket ball for the longest time, spin without falling down, and so on; it was (and is) also used to increase anticipation as when raising a child higher and higher in a swing to begin pushing them or while in the city pool when preparing to launch a child from your arms or shoulders into the water. We said “One for the money, Two for the show (said child would wiggle in a showy or prissy way), Three to get ready (child would hunker down or squeeze more tightly to the swing chains) and Four to go!” (sometimes, child would squeal even before launch or sometimes the adult or older child would purposely delay launch to inspire nervous giggles and increase excitement with a bit of surprise. – – and, yes, sometimes we “sang” it “like Elvis.”
    Funny thing, although it makes sense to use it for races, we only used “On your mark, Get set, Go” for bicycle and foot races (and sometimes for slide races if the playground had two or slides). Any delay in the rhythm of the rhyme meant loud protests and demands for a “do over”.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    March 21, 2014 at 9:11 am

    Are you counting down the days till Spring? Too late, as of yesterday around noonish, we are into our first day of Spring! YEA, YEA, YEA!
    School races were set by the gym teacher or coach with “On you marks, get set, Go!” or if it was an after school track meet, one of those “starting guns” was used!
    Still counted off by someone using the loud speaker but with a guy right on the track firing the
    starting shot!
    I remember saying, One for the money, two for the show, three to get ready, go, go, go!
    I also remember Blue Suede Shoes by old Elvis…I was in high school 1954/55….
    If we were starting a game or something where this rhyme would count it down, we usually called off: One potato, two potato, three potato, four, till the winner or in some cases the loser was picked! I know there are other counting rhymes with the one potato, etc. but I would have to go to my “thunk holder” to find them! This was the first one to come to mind….
    Here’s one for you and I started to send you a picture….Approximately 5 weeks ago here, East Tennessee, we had 6 inches of snow laying around! I know some of you Western North Carolina folks it was just a week or so ago…I hate to “harp” about Spring as I am afraid my joy will be short lived and the hot days will jump into Spring like last year and my lettuce that is up will wilt!
    Great Post,
    Have a nice day Tipper and all!

  • Reply
    March 21, 2014 at 8:13 am

    I have heard this expression all my life. Here in Louisiana when we got ready for a race we said, “Ready, set, go!” I seldom heard the one for the money rhyme used to start a race.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    March 21, 2014 at 8:11 am

    I remember the rhyme, Tipper, as well as the song. I remember hearing it for the start of games as well as the start of most anything. It would be interchangeable with here we go.
    I heard it in several different parts of the Southeast.

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    March 21, 2014 at 7:44 am

    Never heard the rhyme used to start a race, but I heard the rhyme, but I am not sure if I heard it before “Blue Suede Shoes”.

  • Reply
    March 21, 2014 at 7:23 am

    We said one for the money, two for the show, three to get ready , four to GO! to begin a variety of competitions. I grew up mostly in Monroe County, TN.

  • Reply
    March 21, 2014 at 6:07 am

    Yea, we use to as kids in Speake School near Bank Head National Forest I think the address was Danville Alabama.. They’ve closed the High School down and shipped the kids to Moulton High now, they still have an Elementary School..

  • Reply
    Stephen Ammons
    March 21, 2014 at 4:22 am

    I remember the rhyme very well but not sure what it was pertaining to. When we were going to race in school,etc it was On your Marks, Get set, and Go!!!!

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