Singing Rats

. . . or, at least, musically gifted rats.

The Log Driver’s Waltz

girl rat standing on shore looking at a log-driving rat

And the award for Catchiest Tune Ever goes to . . .

Birling down, a-down white water,

That’s how the log driver learns to step lightly

et cetera. Just ask the nearest passing Canadian.

That’s “birl”, verb, not to be confused with “burl”, a sort of tumor that creates pretty wood but probably isn’t much fun for the tree in life. As far as I know, linguists have not isolated a b[V]rl phonestheme representing “round thing having to do with timber”.

At the time I made this page, the animated version of the Log Driver’s Waltz was front and center at the National Film Board of Canada as their Most Popular Film Ever. It’s now buried a little more deeply, but it will never disappear altogether. Or, if you prefer your videos with advertising, there’s always YouTube.

Just don’t listen too closely to the lyrics. Otherwise you’ll find yourself asking questions like, Just how many speakers are there in the song? (Looking only at the verses and ignoring the chorus, you can count either two or three.) Or you might wonder rhetorically whether skill as a dancer really is the most solid foundation for a marriage. And finally—in the film—isn’t somebody going to fish that poor priest out of the river?

No, I don’t know why the animator transformed the log driver’s hooked pole (hook facing downward) into something more nearly resembling a harpoon (hook facing upward) halfway through verse 3. Call it artistic license. But the look on the moose’s face is not to be missed.

Trink, Trink, Rättelein, Trink

rats in the beer garden

Linguistic purists will argue that rats do not take an umlaut, so the word is properly Rattchen or Rattlein. In reply I direct your attention to other irregular declensions such as

I am firm, you are stubborn, he is a pigheaded so-and-so

or, as it were,

I am a purist, you are a spoilsport, he is a boring old poop.

The song they are singing is Ach Du Lieber Augustin. Do not ask me how I know this.

Canta y no chilles

rat with serape and guitar

No languages were harmed in the naming of this picture. “Chillar” is to squeak, like an animal. It becomes “no chilles” in exactly the same way that “llorar” becomes “no llores”. Any resemblance to chili peppers is purely coincidental and of no interest to the rat.

Come to think of it, this is another example of the Ah-ha! song. My own experience went like this. Years ago I lived in a college town that had a summer exchange program with a university in Spain. The driver of the bus route that went by the college was a good friend, and my son was at the age when nothing can be more fun than riding a bus around and around. So we spent many Friday evenings on a bus with a lot of Spanish college students. One time a young man at the back of the bus was playing the guitar and singing to himself. Or so I thought, until he reached the end of the first verse and everyone chimed in:

Ay, ay, ay, ay

Canta y no llores!

The song is Mexican. But it traveled back across the Atlantic. If you’ve now got it running through your head, here’s fairly yummy version. Or, if you prefer, a gloriously hokey one.

Neither of these, of course, has any connection to

Ay, ay, ay, ay

Your brother’s in love with a gerbil

. . . or any of the other familial insults that form the refrain to the Limerick Song. But that is neither here nor there.


Postscript: About a year after originally putting up this page, I heard from someone living in Mexico. Turns out that in some areas, the expression “No chilles” really is used, presumably as a euphemism for “chi...” something else. Imagine that.

Sweet Ratsy from Pike

rat gondolier

Exact lyrics will depend on when and where you learned the song:

Oh don’t you remember sweet Ratsy from Pike

Who crossed the wide kitchen with her alpha Ike

With two well-trained tabbies and one feeding bowl

The chocolate-chip cookies were their final goal.

Sing crunch-munch-munch, munch-crunch-crunch

Brux yum-yum chomp.

. . . Something like that, anyway.

Once a Jolly Swagrat

jolly swagrat beneath the coolibah tree

Once a jolly swagrat camped by the billabong

Under the shade of a coolibah tree

And he sang as he sat and waited while his billy boiled

“The world can never hold enough yogies for me!”

. . . and you know the rest.

Postscript: Until I looked at the logs for the original “Swagrat” page, I had no idea there really was such a thing as a swagrat. But judging by the kind of pages that come up when I search for the term, fond parodies of Australia’s unofficial national anthem do not enter into it.

That’s Amore

a big pizza pie in the sky


When the moon hits your eye

Like a big pizza pie

That’s amore . . .

and so on.

Or, if you are a computer geek of a certain age:

When the lines on your screen

Are not quite what they seem

That’s a moiré.

Rat Charles

Rat Charles at the piano

The Hills are Alive

rat playing the alpenhorn

What can you say about the alpenhorn?


That under the right conditions, the sound carries even further than a bagpipe?

Maxwellton Braes

rat in distant lighthouse playing bagpipe

Whether your instrument is the alpenhorn, the taiko drum, or the bagpipes, some problems are universal.