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The Molicepan and the Biddelum
2012/12/01 - 8:43am

A molicepan saw a biddelum

sitting on a cerbcone

chewing gubber rum.

Said the molicepan,

"Simme gum".

"Tixie on your nintype",

said the biddelum.


The Policeman and the Little Bum

A Policeman saw a little Bum

sitting on a curbstone

chewing rubber gum.

Said the Policeman,

"Give me some".

"Nixie on your tintype",

said the little Bum.


My Mom was born in 1916, and grew up in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin - now suburban Milwaukee.   Her mother's mother taught her this poem.   The phrase "Nixie on your tintype" was considered very sassy and rude.

I have always thought it amusing, wondered where it came from, and if anyone else has ever heard it.

Kristin Anderson, Apalachicola, Florida.   850-653-2249

2012/12/01 - 10:58am

Welcome to the forum Kristin.

Never heard that poem, and I also grew up in Wisconsin (Two Rivers). But I can make a guess at Nixie on your tintype ...

Nixie is probably a variant of nix, the etymology of which comes from the German nichts (meaning "nothing" or "none" or "no"). For example: "nix his request" would mean to ignore or deny the request. At least that's how I've heard it used.

The word tintype is a bit more puzzling. Technically, a tintype is the print from a now-obsolete photographic process. Doesn't exclude the possibility that it used to mean something else ... that poem might predate photography. My first guess was that "tintype" refers to the policeman's badge. In that case, "Nixie on your tintype" would imply a rejection of the policeman's authority, and a denial of his request to "Give me some."

I tried using Google Ngrams to find the historical use of the phrase "Nixie on your tintype" and came up with nothing. So perhaps it was a highly localized phrase, maybe even used only in your family.

Why it would be considered "very sassy and rude" is also puzzling. If we stick with the traditional definition of tintype, and assume nixie means what I suspect it does, then "nixie on your tintype" could mean something like "you look ugly" ... but that's just a wild guess. Maybe some other forum members can provide more insights.

2012/12/01 - 1:55pm

I found this site where someone gives a possible definition.


(Since it appears I have the power, I edited this post to correct the link. EmmettRedd)

2012/12/03 - 1:02am

Dick, the link you posted gives an error message.


Heimhenge, in the post office a nixie is a piece of mail that is undeliverable because of a bad or illegible address; or, as a verb, to mark a piece of mail as undeliverable. There are, or at least were, nixie clerks who dealt with such mail.   I agree with your assessment about it's relation to nix, and always the sense of negation: Our request was nixed by the bank officer before we even filled out the form. Or: Nix on that idea. It stinks!


Kristin, it seems that no one really knows how the phrase came about. I suspect that it was meant to be a humorous variation on not on your life. I've heard not on your tintype on very rare occasions throughout my life, now in my 60s.



859 Posts
2012/12/03 - 6:24am

Try this link instead of Dick's.


2012/12/03 - 8:46am

Thanks, Emmet. When I put that link down I tested it and it worked, but now it doesn't.

2012/12/03 - 11:44pm

Thanks, Emmett.

2013/02/10 - 1:07pm

My mom, born in 1914, taught me this poem, too.   But the last line of her version was, "Tinny on your nintype!" said the biddlelum.

Which translates to "Ninny on your tintype!" said the little bum.


Personally, I think this version fits better with the rest of the poem.

2013/02/16 - 6:55am

"Not on your tintype" is the more common expression, and you'll find a lot of links in google books, including books by Laura Ingalls Wilder and P. G. Wodehouse.

2013/11/30 - 11:13pm

My mom, who was born in 1906, often quoted this poem (usually for no reason at all - just to toss a non sequitur into the conversation. She also used the phrase "ninny on your tintype" on occasion, when referring to someone who's ideas, thoughts, words or deeds were approaching lunacy.

Her version of the poem was very similar to that quoted above, although hers started with "Once a big molicepan..."; "big molicepan" was repeated in the demand for gum. She ended it with "tinny on you nintype", and I believe that "ninny on your tintype" was a direct insult, while "not on your tintype" simply meant "no way, Charlie".

Just for fun, I'll toss out a couple of her other favorites:

  "Go fly a kite in a telephone booth" and "go fry ice" were more visual versions of "get out of here" (verbally, not physically). heelllo.  

2013/12/03 - 1:51pm

In my mother's version (she was born in 1913) the bittle lum says "Ixnay on your tintype," which I think scans better and fits the "not on your tintype" phrase already mentioned as appearing in Wodehouse and elsewhere.

2015/05/19 - 5:31pm

My mother, born in 1916, shared a similar version. Note that it scans better than some of the others. And, "rubber gum" is another hint as to its age.

Once a big molicepan

saw a biddelum

sitting on a sturbcone

chewing gubber rum.

Said the big molicepan,

“Won't you simme gum?"

“Ixnay on your nintype”,

said the biddelum.

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