I hate you, you hate me
Let’s get together and kill Barney
With a shotgun blast and Barney’s on the floor
No more purple dinosaur
– An eleven-year-old New Hampshirite, 1994
I first heard a version of this verse sometime between 1993 and 2000, when I worked as a summer camp counselor. As far as I knew, these lyrics were the creative, semi-deranged work of a single child. So imagine my surprise in reading Josepha Sherman and T.K.F Weiskopf’s amazing book Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts: The Subversive Folklore of Childhood (American Storytelling), which presents no less than thirteen child-propelled parodies of the Barney theme, almost all involving the purple beast’s gruesome demise.
The Barney variations are just a few of the hundreds of rhymes and songs from the world of the schoolyard, the school bus, the summer camp and the back of the classroom, where kids have mangled songs of every sort, taking the piss out of authority figures, pop culture, bodily functions and grim death. Though many readers will be barfed out by the content, it’s hard to read this book without being bowled over by the relentless creativity. Sherman and Weiskopf’s work shows that kids are mini-Stephen Colberts, masters of spoofery composing an oral equivalent of The Onion every day. Or as the authors put it, these “songs and rhymes fearlessly take on the taboos and terrors of the adult world and turn them into things that can be safely mocked.”