LITERATURE

What Moses Incorrectly Supposes and Other Nonsense Verse

If Moses supposes his toeses are roses…

Photo by Amy Baugess on Unsplash

While talking with my mom this weekend she brought up a bit of nonsense verse that I was as yet unfamiliar with. It went like this:

Moses supposes his toeses are roses,
but Moses supposes erroneously.
For Moses he knowses his toeses aren’t roses
as Moses supposes his toeses to be.

In under a minute I found the silly nonsense verse in Wikipedia, plus variants from its preceding history. According to the online encyclopedia the one quoted by my mother was published in 1944. There were earlier versions of this and Wiki cites two:

A version published in 1888, described as “causing much distress of mind to the habitue of Minnetonka,” ran like this:

Moses supposes his toeses are roses;
Moses supposes erroneously,
For nobody’s toeses are roses or posies,
As Moses supposes his toeses to be.

In 1895, a slightly different version was published:

If Moses supposes his toeses are roses,
Then Moses supposes erroneously;
For nobody’s toeses are posies or roses,
As Moses supposes his toeses to be.

I share these “Moses supposes” snippets because they brought to mind another favorite piece of nonsense verse which I’d once memorized. It originally appeared in the 1945 Fred McMurray madcap romp Murder, He Says.

McMurray plays a pollster who’s trying to find his missing co-worker in the rural backwoods. He stumbles upon the Fleagle family, the kind of outlaws who are a law unto themselves, gun toters who turn snoops into an endangered species.

All I remember is that they were looking for some missing treasure, but don’t have a clue where it is — except this seemingly mindless girl who keeps repeating this nonsense riddle in verse:

Honors flysis income beezis,
onches nobsis inob keesis.

Once you know it it’s plain as daisies, but till then it’s a curiosity that keeps you watching and wondering. Some of the film’s politically incorrect (by modern standards) taglines went like this:

— Meet the Fleagles. You’ll love the nut-like flavor in Paramount’s hilarious comedy-mystery

It’s fun to be “fleagled” by those happy hillbilly killer-dillers!

Fred’s Feudin’ Fightin’ and Funnin’ with a Two-Gun Pin-Up Gal…and Her Hillbilly Killer-Dillers!

The history of nonsense verse goes a lot further back than this, though. Here are some useful links for the curious. And yes, you will find Lewis Carroll in that “10 of the Best” link.

I have a friend whose imagination generated all variety of verse, including nonsense. Here is Dave’s very short Vin & the Crocodile as a going away present.

Illustration by the author

Vin wrestled a crocodile,
quite sure he could pin it.
He was up for the match,
determined to win it.

The croc went down flat,
stomach up in a minute;
Sadly for Vin,
he was already in it.

Copyright 1995 Dave Peterson

Do you have a favorite nonsense verse?

An avid reader who writes about arts, culture, literature & other life obsessions. @ennyman3 Look for my books on Amazon https://tinyurl.com/y3l9sfpj

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