“Geven amol a kleyne vantse” Performed by Gerald and Jocelyn Cooper

Geven amol a kleyne vantse / There once was a small bedbug
Gerald Cooper and Jocelyn Cooper
Recorded by Itzik Gottesman, Greene Family Camp, Waco Texas  1993

Commentary by Itzik Gottesman

The Coopers learned this playful song while attending the Habonim summer camp near Montreal (probably Camp Kissufim) in the late 1940s or early 1950s. The song fits into a common children’s song genre of more and more letters or syllables disappearing with each verse until there is silence. The  camp song “BINGO” comes to mind as an American example. Gerald Cooper said the song would typically be sung around a bonfire.
images

The Yiddish word for bedbug is “vants” (too bad Alan Alda’s Hawkeye didn’t know this in the M*A*S*H episode “38 Across” – tune in at 7:33) not “vantse/vantze” which is German. But by playfully adding a syllable to the words “vants” and “tants” to form “vantse” and “tantse”, the song has added a verse.

I have only translated the first verse since it is clear what is going on.

Thanks to Simcha Raphael, Evelyn Tauben for helping with this week’s post.

TRANSLITERATION

Geven a mol a kleyne vantse.
Hot zi zeyer lib gehat tsu tantse.
Kuk zikh tsu, kuk zikh ayn
vi di vantze tantze;
kuk zikh tsu, kuk zikh ayn
vi di vantse tantze.

Geven a mol a kleyne vants
hot zi zeyer lib gehat tsu tants.
Kuk zikh tsu, kuk zikh ayn
vi di vants tants, tants
Kuk zikh tsu, kuk zikh ayn
vi di vants tants, tants.

Geven a mol a kleyne van
hot zi zeyer lib gehat tsu tan
kuk zikh tsu, kuk zikh ayn
vi di van tan tan
kuk zikh tsu, kuk zikh ayn
vi di van tan tan

Geven a mol a kleyne va
hot zi zeyer lib gehat tsu ta
kuk zikh tsu, kuk zikh ayn
vi di va ta ta
kuk zikh tsu, kuk zikh ayn
vi di va ta ta.

Geven a mol a kleyne “v”
hot zi zeyer lib gehat “t”
kuk zikh tsu, kuk zikh ayn
vi di v – t – t
kuk zikh tsu, kuk zikh ayn
vi di v- t- t

Geven a mol a kleyne (silence)
hot zi zeyer lib gehat tsu (silence)
kuk zikh tsu, kuk zikh ayn
vi di (silence)
kuk zikh tsu, kuk zikh ayn
vi di (silence)

TRANSLATION

There once was a small bedbug-O
That loved very much to dance-O.
Look, look
how the bedbug-O dances-O.
Look, look
how the bedbug-O dances-O.
vantse clip

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