This Couple Might Break up Over How to Sing 'Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes' the Right Way

A couple recently got into a lite fight about the correct way to sing the children's song 'Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes.' Will this break them up?

Jennifer Tisdale - Author

Sep. 21 2023, Published 4:37 p.m. ET

Arguments between couples can range from painful to utterly ridiculous, and it's the silly ones you sometimes have to watch out for. I once got into a fight with an ex-boyfriend over lyrics to the Tears for Fears song "Head Over Heels." The first two lines are, "I wanted to be with you alone, and talk about the weather." I maintain it was about a man who loved someone so much he could talk about the weather with her. My ex said he was so bored by this woman, they could only discuss the weather.

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I was right, but I digress. That disagreement didn't break us up, but it did escalate to a place that made no sense for the subject at hand. For one couple on TikTok, their relationship was brought to the brink by a children's song. Where do you weigh in on the great "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes" debate?

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How do you sing 'Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes?'

A woman who goes by @bemusing on TikTok, but who I'm calling Charlotte, is having a bit of a Berenstain vs Barenstein bears moment. She is convinced the song "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes" is sung to one tune, while her partner is 100 percent sure it is sung to another.

"OK stop everything," she pleads desperately. "I need to know how you sing 'Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes' because I think I was right but apparently I'm not right. This is how I sing it." She proceeds to use the correct lyrics, but the music is definitely the tune of "This Is The Way We Wash Our Hands."

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From the driver's side an exasperated, "Stop, stop!" ends the madness that is Charlotte's version of this beloved body parts ditty. "How do you do it then, Ethan?" As he starts singing, all is right with the world again. I didn't realize how far I was shrinking into myself due to Charlotte's version, until I heard the one I'm most comfortable with.

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What is the tune used in 'Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes?'

More than one person in the comments said "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes" is usually song over "London Bridge Is Falling Down," but that's not how Ethan was singing it. It's certainly isn't how I've heard it performed. "Oh, I guess it’s a Canadian thing," commented Jenny Smith about the "London Bridge" option.

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The earliest account of the song's lyrics can be found in The Children's Friend, which was published in 1912. This magazine was published by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I can't imagine what the song was used for.

It's unclear when these words were put to song, but the music I'm most familiar with is a track by the name of "There Is A Tavern In The Town." This bop dates back to 1883 where it first appeared in William H. Hill's Student Songs.

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We're not sure if Charlotte is a member of the Mormon church, but @shakayand on TikTok definitely clocked the Latter Day Saints of it all. "Your way is the way it’s taught in the LDS children’s hymn book," they confirmed. "Everyone else on the planet learned it Ethan’s way." Another person added they also learned Charlotte's way but aren't Mormon. They do live in Utah however, so that make sense.

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In a followup TikTok, Charlotte addressed a commenter who suggested the tune is actually "This Is The Way We Wash Our Hands," which is a completely different song from the previous two. If that tune sounds familiar, it's because that's "Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush."

The lesson we're learning here is sometimes being right is subjective. Are you from Utah? Here's your version. Are you Canadian? Have we got a version for you. And if you're correct, it's Ethan's version. Sorry, but he's definitely right!

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