Ten Green Bottles

Album: Kid's Classics (1830)

Songfacts®:

  • "Ten Green Bottles" or simply "Green Bottles" is a well known children's song. Sometimes the title is cut down to "Nine Green Bottles" or even "Five Green Bottles."

    Unsurprisingly it lends itself readily to parody; during World War II, a variation called "Ten German Bombers" combined the parodied words with the melody of "She'll Be Coming 'Round The Mountain." This variant was also popular with children, though needless to say some parodies are most definitely not suitable for children, at least not for the under fives, such as "Ten Sheep Shaggers," which has been used at soccer matches against Welsh teams. (The Welsh sheep shagging farmer is an old ethnic joke along the same lines as Zip Coon or the Englishman with a stiff upper lip).
  • The United States spawned a somewhat awkward variation "99 Bottles Of Beer" which runs:

    Ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall
    Ninety-nine bottles of beer
    Take one down, pass it around
    Ninety-eight bottles of beer on the wall


    Obviously this takes somewhat longer to sing, and the full version is clearly not suitable for classrooms.
  • Like many folk songs, the origin of "Ten Green Bottles" is lost to antiquity. It is believed to be of English, more specifically of Yorkshire origin, although one suggestion is that greenbottles refers to officers of the Metropolitan Police, apparently underworld jargon for the new force founded by Act of Parliament in 1829. This could explain why the bottles were said to be hanging on the wall rather than sitting on it. This explanation sounds plausible, but in September 1998, a French academic found a fragment of a manuscript, apparently dating from the late 14th Century, which appears to be the earliest extant version. It runs:

    Syxthene boetell gryne
    Yhangen, Yhangen
    Yhangen, Yhangen
    Syxthene boetell gryne
    Doonfal won
    Syxthene boetell gryne
    Yhangen, Yhangen
    An...


    >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Alexander Baron - London, England, for all above

Comments: 1

  • Greg from EdinburghThe origin myth is from a spoof article: http://www.standingstones.com/greenbot.html
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Weird Al YankovicFact or Fiction

Did Al play on a Beach Boys record? Did he have beef with George Lucas and Coolio? See if you can spot weird but true stories.

Gary LewisSongwriter Interviews

Gary Lewis and the Playboys had seven Top 10 hits despite competition from The Beatles. Gary talks about the hits, his famous father, and getting drafted.

Early Days of MTVFact or Fiction

If you can recall the days when MTV played videos, you know that there are lots of stories to tell. See if you can spot the real ones.

Dave MasonSongwriter Interviews

Dave reveals the inspiration for "Feelin' Alright" and explains how the first song he ever wrote became the biggest hit for his band Traffic.

Female Singers Of The 90sMusic Quiz

The ladies who ruled the '90s in this quiz.

U2Fact or Fiction

How did The Edge get his name? Did they name a song after a Tolkien book? And who is "Angel of Harlem" about?