Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Poetry Wednesday: Things that go bump in the night


LITANY FOR HALLOWEEN

From ghoulies and ghosties,
Long-leggety beasties,
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us.

-Anonymous

Familiar to all of us, I posted this and then wondered where it originated. Here's what Googling found for me:
The earliest known example of the phrase in print is in the 1918 in the Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies:

"To a people ... who ... believe in genii, ghosts, goblins, and those terrific things that 'go bump in the night', protective charms are eagerly sought for."

That usage suggests that the author expected his readers to be familiar with the phrase. Around the same time the phrase was incorporated into a prayer:

From goulies and ghosties and long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night
Good Lord, deliver us!

This was recorded in The Cornish and West Country Litany, 1926, but is quite likely to be [from] much earlier.

7 comments:

Jacqui Binford-Bell said...

Nice little bit of history that. It is one of those phrases we most all know but have not a clue from whence it came.

Kwika said...

Sounds Scottish to me. In old days they used words like ghosties, and beasties. I seem to recall Robbie Burns using beasties in one of his poems tho don't ask me which.

bekkieann said...

It does sound Scottish, doesn't it. As in the Robbie Burns poem I posted not too long ago, "O wad the power the giftie gie us . . ."

Bee's Blog said...

Sounds Irish to me!! But I do know differently.
Yes, one we all know from childhood but can never remember how and when we learned it! Nice!

Michael said...

It just sounds plain scarey to me Becks

Nicholas V. said...

I've always liked this little bit of doggerel, which I have always thought was a good, thrifty (wordwise!) Scottish prayer.
Here is an interesting article on Halloween and all its "ghoulies and ghosties":
http://www.worldwidewords.org/articles/bump.htm

bekkieann said...

What a marvelous article, Nicholas, thanks for the link. I hope everyone will take the time to read the brief but very interesting background for the many different types of ghoulies. Great fun!

I'm with you Mick, Now if I start hearing things go bump tonight, I'm just gong to pull the covers over my head!