Ask Me No Questions, I Will Tell No Lies

March brings with it St. Patrick’s Day and an affinity for all things Irish. Before we bring March to a close, let us take a moment to reflect upon one of the great Irish cultural contributions: the grand oral tradition of story and song.  Shakespeare (somewhat ironically) wrote that brevity is the soul of wit but the Irish never waste an opportunity to say in a few paragraphs what could be said in a few words. This verbosity has been responsible for a great many works of art. (Of course the Irish were equally gifted at preserving the written word, as is well documented in Thomas Cahill’s New York Times Best Seller How The Irish Saved Civilization, but I digress.)

What better way to illustrate this than with a clever little nursery rhyme many good Irish children learn (usually, as with this writer, by a parent or other mature, serious and adult relative) about a dog’s genitals, alcoholic beverages and a bucket full of excrement of undisclosed origin.

In a phenomenon increasingly rare in 2014, there is little to be found about this song online. It seems there is a place after all for the grand oral storytelling tradition even in the digital age. There are a handful of discussion threads and two or three YouTube clips offering remembrances or performances of the song. Most of the lyrics found online vary slightly from the version this writer first heard sung by his Irish father and Italian mother while in the back seat of the family car on some unremembered road in some unremembered state somewhere out there in the great big USA.

The exquisite structure of the lyric was immortalized instantaneously.

Two Irishmen, two Irishmen digging in a ditch

One called the other a dirty son of a –

Peter Murphy had a dog, a mighty fine dog was he

Along came a bumble bee and stung him in his –

Cocktail, ginger ale, ten cents a glass

If you don’t like it you can shove it up your –

Ask me no questions, I will tell no lies

If you get hit by a bucket of shit, be sure to close your eyes

It is a simple yet effective structure: setting up the rhyme to lead the listener’s ear toward an obvious obscenity only to duck and weave into an innocuous quasi-homophone. When the resolving line involving the imminent bucket of shit finally arrives, emphasized by a nifty internal rhyme, the use of the obscenity is heightened and therefore permissible as a literary device with a purpose and function. Any decent songwriter, poet or raconteur would be well served in studying the structure of these lines. And sing it to your kids, they will be grateful.

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13 responses

  1. I believe there are some extra lines to this rhyme. It was told to me by a guy that used to run the booth at a DEQ station in Hillsboro, Or. ..”a very fine dog was he, he gave him to a lady friend to keep her company, she fed him, she fed him, she taught him how to jump, he jumped up her petty coat and bit her on the— country boy, country boy sitting on a rock, along came a bumble bee and stung him on his—-cocktails…..” There may be a lot of variations. Thanks for sharing.

    1. I’m sure there are several other verses, which is part of the fun. Thanks for sharing that one – I had not heard it.

  2. I was taught this song by my father I think it was around when I was in first or second grade. So it had to be around 1980 or 1981 and if I remember it correctly then version I saw on hear was a bit shorter than the one I memorized way back when. But any ways hears how the one I know goes

    Two Irish men two Irish men were diggen in a ditch, one called the other one a dirty son of a Peter Murphy had a dog and what a dog was he, he gave it to his lady friend to keep her company, she wash it she bathed it she laid it the grass and along came a bumble bee and stung him on the, cocktail ginger ale 5 cents a glass, and if you don’t believe me you can shove it up your, ask me no questions and I will tell you no lies, if you ever get hit with a bucket of shit be sure to close your eyes.

  3. Hah! This is the exact version my friend taught me back in about 1973 or 1974, and he had learned it from his father. This is like a time capsule for me. I laughed so hard I couldn’t even finish the song when I sang it to my wife & daughter just now :-/. Even the analysis after the song is funny – well done.

  4. I have always sang it

    Three Irishman three Irishman
    Were diggin in a ditch
    One called the other one
    A dirty son of a
    Peter murphy had a dog
    A dirty dog was he
    He gave it to his lady friend to keep her company
    She taught it she taught it
    She taught it how to jump
    It jumped up her petty coat
    And but her on the
    Cocktail, ginger ale
    Seven cents a glass
    If you don’t like my story
    You can shove it up your
    Ask me no questions
    I’ll tell you no lies
    Of you ever get hit with a bucket of *raspberry* don’t forget to close your eyes.

  5. Clancy and Murphy were digging in a ditch,
    Clancy called Murphy a dirty son of a —
    Beaver, beaver sitting on a log,
    along came a bumble bee and stung him on his —
    Cocktail, ginger-ale, 50 cents a glass,
    If you don’t like it, you can shove it up your —
    Ask me no more questions,
    I’ll tell you no more lies,
    The boys (or girls) are in the bathroom,
    pulling down their flies.

  6. Two Irish Men, two Irish men digging in a ditch – one called the other a dirty son of a –
    Peter Murphy had a dog a quite nice dog he was – he gave it to a lady friend to keep her company – she fed, she taught it, it jumped right up her petticoat and smelled of her…
    Count ry boy, country boy sitting on a rock, a bumble bee came along and stung him on his… Cock tail, gingerale, 5 cents a glass, if you don’t like it you can stick it up your… Assss k me no questions and I will tell you no lies, and if you get a bucket of shit thrown in your face, be sure and close your eyes!

  7. We sang this song back in the mid 70s on rooter buses on way to football games. We also sang salvation army song.

  8. I remember my mom took us camping along the Oregon coast. We met these kids and they taught us this. We thought they were cool because it kind of swore. This is the version I learned some 40+ years ago.

    Three Irish ditch diggers
    digging in a ditch
    one called the other
    a dirty son of a biscuit eater.
    Peter Murphy had a goat
    a mighty goat was he
    he sold to a friend to keep him company.
    The goat the goat he ran away
    and sat upon a rock.
    Along came a bumble bee and
    stung him on the cocktail
    Ginger Ale 5 cents a glass.
    If you don’t believe me
    stick it up your ask
    me no more questions
    I’ll tell you no more lies.
    If you ever get hit
    with a bucket of shit
    open your mouth and close your eyes.

  9. the one i know is
    3 Irishmen, 3 Irishmen diggin in a ditch
    One called the other one a lazy son of a
    Peter murhpy had a dog,
    A very fine dog was he,
    he gave him to a lady friend to keep her company
    She taught it, she taught it, she taught it how to jump,
    It jumped right up her petty coat and bit her in the
    Cunt-ry boy cunt-ry boy sittin on a stump
    Allong comes a bumble be the bites him in the
    Cock-tails ginger ails 5 cents a glass
    If you dont like my story you can shove it up youre ass
    Ask no questions, i will tell no lies
    If you get hit by a bucket of shit,
    Be sure to close youre eyes

  10. Two Irishmen, two Irishmen, diggin in a ditch
    one called the other a dirty son of a –
    Peter Murhpy, Peter Murphy had a goat
    A beautiful goat was he, he sold it to a women to set upon her knee
    The goat was lost, the goat was lost, the goat was never found
    Along came a bumble bee and stung her on the –
    Cocktails, ginger ale, 5 cents a glass, and if you don’t believe me you can kiss my dirty –
    Ask me no questions, tell me no lies
    And if you get hit by a bucket of shit, make sure you close your eyes!

  11. Jason Ferretti | Reply

    Three Irishman three Irishman
    Sitting in a ditch
    The other one called the other one
    A dirty son of a bitch
    Peter Murphy had a dog
    And what a dog was he
    He gave it to the girl next door to keep her company
    She fed it she fed it
    She fed the dirty runt
    The runt went up her pantyhose
    And bit her in the country boy
    Country boy sitting on a rock
    along came a bee and stung him on his Cocktail
    ginger-ale, 5 cents a glass
    If you don’t like it, shove it up your ass

    This is the version I learned in Brampton Ontario 1982

  12. I took my gal to a baseball game, the batter hit a bunt,
    it went so fast, it went so low, it hit her in the
    Country boy country boy sitting on a rock
    along came a bumble bee and stung him on the
    Cocktails, ginger ale, 5 cents a glass
    Drink it up, drink it down, stick it up your
    ask me no questions, I’ll tell you no lies
    If you get hit with a bucket of shit
    be sure to close your eyes.

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