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TheBathBird
03-06-2016, 10:05 AM
Apologies if this is a blindingly stupid question, but what is "my dog has fleas"? And why is it associated with the uke?

It's often said that it's a good way to remember the tuning of a ukulele, but I have no idea why. The letters don't represent the notes of the open strings (or any notes for that matter), and it's not a song I've ever come across. Is it something American kids grow up singing? Am I just on the wrong side of the pond? I've googled it, but I only find references to the ukulele, and now it's really starting to bug me!

Croaky Keith
03-06-2016, 10:47 AM
No idea why, but these are something to do with it.

http://www.ukeschool.com/ukulele/tuning/my_dog_has_fleas.html


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QATHiOS_Efc

janeray1940
03-06-2016, 10:50 AM
According to the Google, nobody seems to know its origins - although if anybody would, I'd bet UU member Jim T. (http://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/member.php?32284-Jim-T) might have a clue!

As for American kids singing it - as someone who was an American kid as far back as the 1960s, I do know it was used in American cartoons of a much earlier vintage than myself, and when I got a uke for my 7th birthday it was how I was taught to tune it. I can't remember ever hearing it for the first time - it was just something I always knew, probably from cartoons and my 1920s-vintage parents. Makes me wonder if a non-uke-playing American millennial without a familiarity with old cartoons would have any idea what we're talking about!

Rllink
03-06-2016, 11:28 AM
I'm sixty-five, and I remember singing it as a kid, but it certainly had nothing to do with ukuleles.

DownUpDave
03-06-2016, 11:54 AM
Why "My dog has fleas".

Because it is better than your partner having fleas.............that is a little North American humor Victoria, very little.

TheBathBird
03-06-2016, 12:59 PM
No idea why, but these are something to do with it.

http://www.ukeschool.com/ukulele/tuning/my_dog_has_fleas.html


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QATHiOS_Efc

Thank you! But why "my dog has fleas", and not "please pass the salt", or "get off my lawn"?!

TheBathBird
03-06-2016, 01:02 PM
According to the Google, nobody seems to know its origins - although if anybody would, I'd bet UU member Jim T. (http://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/member.php?32284-Jim-T) might have a clue!

As for American kids singing it - as someone who was an American kid as far back as the 1960s, I do know it was used in American cartoons of a much earlier vintage than myself, and when I got a uke for my 7th birthday it was how I was taught to tune it. I can't remember ever hearing it for the first time - it was just something I always knew, probably from cartoons and my 1920s-vintage parents. Makes me wonder if a non-uke-playing American millennial without a familiarity with old cartoons would have any idea what we're talking about!


I'm sixty-five, and I remember singing it as a kid, but it certainly had nothing to do with ukuleles.

So when it was in cartoons and you were singing it as children, the notes followed the tuning of a reentrant uke? And was it part of a song, or literally just that one line?

TheBathBird
03-06-2016, 01:04 PM
Why "My dog has fleas".

Because it is better than your partner having fleas.............that is a little North American humor Victoria, very little.

Haha, thanks Dave! I think I'd prefer "nobody in my house has fleas", but I suppose that would require 6 strings - perish the thought!

janeray1940
03-06-2016, 02:42 PM
So when it was in cartoons and you were singing it as children, the notes followed the tuning of a reentrant uke? And was it part of a song, or literally just that one line?

Just that one line, following the same notes as reentrant uke tuning. I don't seem to recall it being specific to uke in cartoons - it was more as a sort of shorthand for music in general, usually music played badly, usually by a hack, if my memory is correct. Probably says a lot about the public perception of ukulele at the time! :)

ScooterD35
03-06-2016, 02:45 PM
I've always imagined it was an early twentieth century phrase coined by some hipster from San Francisco upon learning that "Ukulele" literally means "jumping flea". Possibly just as a way to tune by ear.


Scenario at the Pan Pacific Expo in 1915 (introduction of the Uke to the mainland masses):

Hip American Musician:
Wow! What an amazing little instrument. What is that?

Authentic Hawaiian Musician:
It's an Ukulele, the newest and most popular instrument in Hawaii.

HAM:
Ukulele? Why do you call it that?

AHM:
Well, the name means "jumping flea" in Hawaiian, and the fingers moving on the strings look like jumping fleas!

HAM:
Well whatta ya know, my dog has fleas! (People standing around all laugh at the joke.) Say, can I try it?

AHM:
Of course! (Hands it over.)

HAM:
So how is it tuned?



...and the rest is history!



Scooter

janeray1940
03-06-2016, 03:34 PM
Here's a reference to it regarding violins in a Stephen King book (https://books.google.com/books?id=srYACwAAQBAJ&pg=PT105&lpg=PT105&dq=my+dog+has+fleas+violin+-ukulele&source=bl&ots=AxXFgP6btM&sig=DRZee9qJaPrx3-EQKPVuiYq1esQ&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjbqa6Jt63LAhUU1WMKHc6pAwkQ6AEIKjAE#v=on epage&q=my%20dog%20has%20fleas%20violin%20-ukulele&f=false)... maybe evidence that it's more widespread in tuning instruments than just ukulele??

Memphis Weirdo
03-06-2016, 03:57 PM
Try singing "My Dog Has Fleas" with low G.

Doesn't sound right.

.

pluck
03-06-2016, 04:47 PM
"Yo mama has fleas" could work but I don't think it has wings.

mm stan
03-06-2016, 05:15 PM
Good Boys has toys.....

jejorda2
03-06-2016, 08:47 PM
When I googled the question, this was the best answer I found:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ap8N0hLbeqg

TheBathBird
03-06-2016, 10:38 PM
Just that one line, following the same notes as reentrant uke tuning. I don't seem to recall it being specific to uke in cartoons - it was more as a sort of shorthand for music in general, usually music played badly, usually by a hack, if my memory is correct. Probably says a lot about the public perception of ukulele at the time! :)


Perhaps a violin player could comment.
I have found a post from 1995 which calls the Handel Violin Sonata in D the "my dog has fleas" sonata. I have also found the term in some other violin posts about other pieces. So perhaps it is actually more ancient than the ukulele?


Here's a reference to it regarding violins in a Stephen King book (https://books.google.com/books?id=srYACwAAQBAJ&pg=PT105&lpg=PT105&dq=my+dog+has+fleas+violin+-ukulele&source=bl&ots=AxXFgP6btM&sig=DRZee9qJaPrx3-EQKPVuiYq1esQ&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjbqa6Jt63LAhUU1WMKHc6pAwkQ6AEIKjAE#v=on epage&q=my%20dog%20has%20fleas%20violin%20-ukulele&f=false)... maybe evidence that it's more widespread in tuning instruments than just ukulele??

Thanks guys, this is quite intriguing, I feel like it's raising more questions than answers!

TheBathBird
03-06-2016, 10:39 PM
I've always imagined it was an early twentieth century phrase coined by some hipster from San Francisco upon learning that "Ukulele" literally means "jumping flea". Possibly just as a way to tune by ear.


Scenario at the Pan Pacific Expo in 1915 (introduction of the Uke to the mainland masses):

Hip American Musician:
Wow! What an amazing little instrument. What is that?

Authentic Hawaiian Musician:
It's an Ukulele, the newest and most popular instrument in Hawaii.

HAM:
Ukulele? Why do you call it that?

AHM:
Well, the name means "jumping flea" in Hawaiian, and the fingers moving on the strings look like jumping fleas!

HAM:
Well whatta ya know, my dog has fleas! (People standing around all laugh at the joke.) Say, can I try it?

AHM:
Of course! (Hands it over.)

HAM:
So how is it tuned?



...and the rest is history!



Scooter

I love this scenario! I think I'm going to choose to believe that this is EXACTLY what happened :)

TheBathBird
03-06-2016, 10:46 PM
Try singing "My Dog Has Fleas" with low G.

Doesn't sound right.

.

Nope, definitely lacks some of the drama :)


"Yo mama has fleas" could work but I don't think it has wings.

I quite like it! But I suppose it's not very "mahalo"...


Good Boys has toys.....

Good girls has curls?

TheBathBird
03-06-2016, 10:47 PM
When I googled the question, this was the best answer I found:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ap8N0hLbeqg

Cute song!

ukulelekarcsi
03-07-2016, 01:22 AM
It's most certainly originally coined by May Singhi Breen in her teaching methods and radio shows, as a simple mnemonic device, not an entire song. And it was popularized beyond ukulele players when it was used in a tuning sketch in the George Burns and Gracie Allen film 'Honolulu' (1939): "You see what's wrong, Dorothy...the dogs are all right, but the fleas are out of tune." Later some people did try to put a second line behind it, using the reverse order of the same notes: ‘they bite his knees’. But my favourite is Rowlf’s version in the Muppets, who sings it on while exchanging his upright piano for a ukulele: “My man has mosquito bites.”

In Japan, I've heard Hanako-San being used for the same purpose (Hanako is a girl's first name, Hanako-San is the 'toilet ghost' in the playground urban legend).

In France the Lefebvre manual and the Ukulele Club de Paris did recommend an actual song from the Jules et Jim film by Truffaut (1962), using the lines 'Elle avait de bagues à chaque doigt' (she had rings on every finger) from the song 'Tourbillon de la Vie' (the whirlwind of life) by Rezvani.

UkerDanno
03-07-2016, 04:14 AM
Seems like I remember it from The Little Rascals...Alfalfa tuning up his vocal chords?

UkieOkie
03-07-2016, 04:49 AM
I don't have any history to add, but at this resent my kids think it is hilarious to sing along it as "My Dad Has Fleas". They really sing it out on f we are in public. ��

janeray1940
03-07-2016, 05:52 AM
Seems like I remember it from The Little Rascals...Alfalfa tuning up his vocal chords?

I do believe you're right! Welp, there goes my day - in the interest of "research" I'll have to review my entire Our Gang collection to see if I can find it :)

ETA: 4 discs in and - nada, nothin', zip, bupkis. We'll see what tomorrow brings...

UkerDanno
03-07-2016, 08:37 AM
I do believe you're right! Welp, there goes my day - in the interest of "research" I'll have to review my entire Our Gang collection to see if I can find it :)

:rofl::shaka:

70sSanO
03-07-2016, 04:37 PM
John King did a nice history on Nalu-music.com

http://nalu-music.com/?cat=4

About 5 paragraphs down.

John

ksiegel
03-07-2016, 04:56 PM
But my favourite is Rowlf’s version in the Muppets, who sings it on while exchanging his upright piano for a ukulele: “My man has mosquito bites.”

I remember that quite clearly, but what Rowlf sang was "My People Has Mosquito bites!"

It was pre-Muppets show, an old black-and-white sketch that I'm thinking was on the Jimmy Dean show, where Rowlf often played a ukulele.

I was very young, but from then on, whenever I heard someone sing the "My Dog Has Fleas" mnemonic, I have always responded "My People Has Mosquito Bites!"

-Kurt

janeray1940
03-07-2016, 04:56 PM
John King did a nice history on Nalu-music.com

http://nalu-music.com/?cat=4

About 5 paragraphs down.

John

Nice find, and probably as good of a confirmation we're going to get that the origin is lost. The "flea string" bit gave me a good laugh! :)

Even the origins of the mnemonic my-dog-has-fleas is lost to us. They do tell a humorous story about it in Honolulu, though. A keiki [child] walks into the Kamaka ‘ukulele factory on South Street and tells Sam Kamaka, “I want to buy a flea string for my ‘ukulele.” When Sam suggests the kid means a “C” string, the little keiki replies, “No, I don’t! When my kumu [teacher] tunes my ‘ukulele, she sings ‘My-dog-has-fleas’ and it’s the flea string that broke!”

Jacman Rasta Bicycle
03-07-2016, 05:01 PM
Well, I've spent the last couple of days trying all sorts of variations of My Dog Has Fleas.

My Cat Has Fleas
My Hamster Has Fleas
My Goldfish Has Fleas
Me Budgie Has Fleas (shout out to my Brahs across the pond)
My Armadillo Has Fleas
Fleas, My Dog Has (Yoda style)
My Beaver Has Fleas
My Christmas Tree Has Fleas
My Wife Has Fleas
My Boss Has Fleas (that one made me laugh)
My Ass has Fleas (the animal)


None of them has the same vibe as My Dog Has Fleas.

stevepetergal
03-07-2016, 06:10 PM
Why "My Dog Has Fleas"?!

'Cause "My Flea Has Dogs" was trademarked.

TheBathBird
03-07-2016, 11:19 PM
Thank you for all the replies. As Janeray says, the John King article would suggest that the true origins have been lost in the mists of time. I'm still a little perplexed as to how it's supposed to serve as an aide memoire, you could sing pretty much anything to the tune of GCEA, but I suppose familiarity with the phrase from cartoons etc would go some way to explain that.
I should probably stop googling "my dog has fleas" and actually do some work (it would appear google's targeted advertising is already convinced my house is infested) but now I've got a burning urge to trawl the internet in search of the cartoons that have been mentioned. Oh well.

TheBathBird
03-07-2016, 11:29 PM
I don't have any history to add, but at this resent my kids think it is hilarious to sing along it as "My Dad Has Fleas". They really sing it out on f we are in public. ��

The great thing about kids is that once they're teenagers you can embarrass them by just existing, throw a bit of dad-dancing into the mix when their friends are around, and you can get them back BIG TIME :)

Tootler
03-07-2016, 11:32 PM
The great thing about kids is that once they're teenagers you can embarrass them by just existing, throw a bit of dad-dancing into the mix when their friends are around, and you can get them back BIG TIME :)

The prime duty of parents of teenagers is to embarrass them at every opportunity :rulez:

TheBathBird
03-07-2016, 11:33 PM
My Ass has Fleas (the animal)

This is definitely my favourite :)

TheBathBird
03-07-2016, 11:34 PM
"My Flea Has Dogs" was trademarked.

You can see why. It's SO catchy.

TheBathBird
03-07-2016, 11:35 PM
The prime duty of parents of teenagers is to embarrass them at every opportunity :rulez:

It's the only area of parenting in which I am totally confident I have not failed.

Rllink
03-08-2016, 02:13 AM
The great thing about kids is that once they're teenagers you can embarrass them by just existing, throw a bit of dad-dancing into the mix when their friends are around, and you can get them back BIG TIME :)
Then, when they get into their late twenties, early thirties. They start thinking everything you are doing is cool again, and they want to go on vacation with you. That's the way it is with mine anyway.

good_uke_boy
03-08-2016, 02:28 AM
Well, I've spent the last couple of days trying all sorts of variations of My Dog Has Fleas.

My Cat Has Fleas
My Hamster Has Fleas
My Goldfish Has Fleas
Me Budgie Has Fleas (shout out to my Brahs across the pond)
My Armadillo Has Fleas
Fleas, My Dog Has (Yoda style)
My Beaver Has Fleas
My Christmas Tree Has Fleas
My Wife Has Fleas
My Boss Has Fleas (that one made me laugh)
My Ass has Fleas (the animal)


None of them has the same vibe as My Dog Has Fleas.

My Flea has Fleas?

Coming up with these should be a "game" in the General Discussion Forum.

plunker
03-08-2016, 02:45 AM
I am quite old, and I remember it from art and music class. We were drawing bison on the all of the cave.

Memphis Weirdo
03-08-2016, 03:33 AM
From what I've read, Abraham Lincoln's wife would randomly blurt it out in the middle of his speaches... in a non-musical (monotone) manner. Since she was crazy, there is no way to know if she meant it in a ukulele context, but that dates it back to at least the Civil War era.

Down Up Dick
03-08-2016, 05:25 AM
The answer is very, very simple: It's for the mDHF tuning. It's rarely used now days though. :old:

river_driver
03-08-2016, 06:11 AM
This thread has been a blast. Fun threads like this seem to have been scarce lately!

I remember Alfalfa "tuning up" ("mee-mee-meeEE-ee" (voice cracking the whole time)) but I don't remember him singing "my dog has fleas". Doesn't mean it never happened; I watched endless rounds of Our Gang as a kid, but probably haven't seen one in 20 years.

I seem to remember Arthur Godfrey having a role in promoting MDHF on his TV show in the '50s. It didn't originate with him though.

TheBathBird
03-08-2016, 07:07 AM
I am quite old, and I remember it from art and music class. We were drawing bison on the all of the cave.

My bison has fleas!


From what I've read, Abraham Lincoln's wife would randomly blurt it out in the middle of his speaches... in a non-musical (monotone) manner. Since she was crazy, there is no way to know if she meant it in a ukulele context, but that dates it back to at least the Civil War era.

This is brilliant! I think I might start droning "my dog has fleas" at my husband next time he tries to explain the rules of cricket to me.


The answer is very, very simple: It's for the mDHF tuning. It's rarely used now days though. :old:

Ah, I feel like such a fool! Of course that tuning never really caught on, because the high M could only be heard by bats.

TheBathBird
03-08-2016, 07:16 AM
This thread has been a blast. Fun threads like this seem to have been scarce lately!

I remember Alfalfa "tuning up" ("mee-mee-meeEE-ee" (voice cracking the whole time)) but I don't remember him singing "my dog has fleas". Doesn't mean it never happened; I watched endless rounds of Our Gang as a kid, but probably haven't seen one in 20 years.

I seem to remember Arthur Godfrey having a role in promoting MDHF on his TV show in the '50s. It didn't originate with him though.

I'd never heard of My Gang before it came up in this thread. When I was a child all the kids' TV in the UK was homegrown (and there wasn't very much of it!). I can remember watching Sesame Street for the first time on a family holiday to Florida when I was very young, I was completely blown away by it!

geetee
03-12-2016, 10:30 PM
Today I learned that Byron Yasui's composition Concerto for Ukulele and Orchestra, Campanella is based on the My Dog Has Fleas motif.

http://www.honolulupulse.com/2015/06/ukulele-unbound/

I wonder if he might have written it as a very delayed response to Jake's remark in the discussion about tunings which happens in the last minute of this video.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8HZ_CLnd8lU