Appalachia Rhymes

Tom Toddy Tom Toddy

Tom Toddy Tom Toddy all head and no body

Back when we first started discussing rhymes here on the Blind Pig, Ed Ammons sent me the following email about a rhyme his mother used to say:

My mother used to recite a little poem or phrase that included the words “Tom Toddy, Tom Toddy, all head and no body.” Have your or your parents ever hear of such? That little scrap is all I remember. Ed

A few months later Ed sent me this email:

Hey Tipper

A couple of months ago I sent you an email about a little rhyme my mother used to recite. She would say “Tom Toddy, Tom Toddy, all head and no body. I asked if you or your dad or mom had heard it or anything like it. Well, today I was “working” I thought again about it. After a bit of googling, I found this

It’s not verbatim but the resemblance is striking. How can it not be the same?

After researching the line Ed’s Mother used to say, I discovered tom-toddy is another name for a young frog or for a tadpole. And as you can see from the glossary entry below it’s also apparently the name for a strange drinking game.

The tadpole part certainly fits the little rhyme.

Glossary of words in use in cornwall
I’m hoping some of you can shed even more light on the little rhyme. However one thing is already clear-like much of our heritage and culture it came from over the big pond with those first white settlers of Appalachia.



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  • Reply
    Peggy R. Lambert
    October 12, 2014 at 8:39 pm

    Where Oh Where Can She Be??????
    After reading the Smoky Mt. Times this week and the Jim Cassada piece. Jim is Don’s brother. I figured out where she was at and what she was doing.
    I hope they treated you with honor. You are a great Lady! Glad to have met you and you have a great Blog.
    One of your “Nuts” (Acorns)
    Peggy L.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    October 12, 2014 at 1:35 am

    and Ed…I researched my children’s rhymes books one especially quoting plays, rhymes and tales from Scotland and Ireland! Some are hard to read, but did note the Christmas Sport plays mentioned of old. These were played from home to home during the holidays as your site states.
    Since the Tom Toddy character seems to always fall mostly as the closing of the skit/play, I wonder if the drink (BEER) was the end celebration of said sport!
    Tom Toddy has more head and no body…Wonder if it meant that there was lots of “fuzz” at the top of the mug…and the liquid “no body” was very weak…a weak Guinness, so to speak!
    Plus, all had to pay so he would leave…or pay for the performance with drink! I’d say the brew especially for children didn’t contain body or stong drink when celebrating the Christmas sport plays…
    Then of course, it could be just a frog character in the play! LOL
    I’d say your rhyme by your Mother was passed from her family for generations…She may have never known where it came from or what it meant either…
    Love it and glad you posted about the poem…
    Thanks Tipper and Ed…

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    October 11, 2014 at 5:25 pm

    The closest my mother ever came to comsuming alcohol was when they did the Lords Supper at church. I know that is true because she kept the tiny glasses they drank from and supplied the grape juice they drank from them. We gathered the grapes and she canned the juice. It went straight from the cooker into the jars then into the canner to seal. The juice wasn’t exposed to the air long enough for fermentation to even start much less produce alcohol.
    The closest she came to a party was also at church. There sometimes was a lot of dancing and shouting and waving of hands but the spirits those people had within them came from above not from a bottle.
    They also held foot washings at the same church and my mother was the caretaker of the vessels they used. I hope that practice has not be construed as some hedonistic drunken orgy.
    I thought Dr. Casada might have some input in this since his doctorate is in British imperial history but his comment made no mention of today’s topic.
    Oh well, I’ll be going to see my mother in a few short days and I will be sure ask her. The problem is I can’t come back to tell you.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    October 11, 2014 at 2:52 pm

    Hail all Acorns–Just wanted you to know that I’ve kept a watchful eye on Tipper over the past several days, and she’s done us all proud. I won’t reveal any more, and besides that, she has control of comments so I can’t be caught doing any tattletale stuff.
    Just take my word for it, she’s interacted with a bunch of interesting and, in many cases, very talented folks, and before this day is out there will be a special treat or two from those darling Acornettes, Chitter and Chatter. As a side note, they richly earn their monikers.
    That’s all I’ve got to offer, but I fully expect you to get detailed revelations in the coming days.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    October 11, 2014 at 11:51 am

    I never heard the phrase or of the game! My grandfather used to say ( when asking someone to bless the food) “who wants to turn the thanks?” When he said “thank you, it was “thank ye” or “much obliged”. Other sayings were, “well, I’ll be John Brown” and “Gee my Nettie!” Seems you don’t hear those phrases anymore

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    October 11, 2014 at 10:35 am

    Mommy used to rub me on my head as she recited the little phrase. My parents were both teetotalers but my grampaw on my mothers side was known to have squeezed a bit of liquid fortification from some of his corn crop. Maybe Mommy overheard an assemblage of his friends out in the barn evaluating this years crop.
    My gramaw on my mother side was a teetotaler too until she was near 90. Then she took to smoking now and then and sipping a bit of creme sherry.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    October 11, 2014 at 10:31 am

    I can’t help Ed on Tom Toddy, I
    never heard of it until now…Ken

  • Reply
    October 11, 2014 at 10:10 am

    So funny! My great-grandmother(E. TN/N.AL) was quoted as reciting a similar rhyme, only not as G-rated and more personalised!I’m glad to know of its origin and that she didn’t entirely make it up.

  • Reply
    October 11, 2014 at 9:11 am

    Sorry, I can’t help you with this one. I think there needs to be a bit more research. Have fun! Looks like it could be a beer drinking song, like the 100 bottles of beer on the wall………….

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    October 11, 2014 at 7:54 am

    I really love hearing the origins of rhymes and other stories and the changes that have occurred over time.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    October 11, 2014 at 7:26 am

    Tipper, I’ve heard of a drink called a Tom Collins and I’ve heard a drink called a toddy but I’ve never heard of a Tom Toddy in relation to drinks or frogs. Sorry, I’m of no help.

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