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Remember Babes in Toyland?

I Can't Do the Sum

Music by Victor Herbert
Lyrics by Glen MacDonough

This parody of classroom math problems was introduced in Babes in Toyland (1903). The refrain was punctuated by the ensemble clicking on small blackboards with pieces of chalk. It is performed in 4/4 time.

Verse 1

If a steamship weighed ten thousand tons
And sailed five thousand miles
With a cargo large of overshoes
And carving knives and files,
If the mates were almost six feet high
And the bos'n near the same,
Would you subtract or multiply
To find the captain's name?

Oh! Oh! Oh!
Put down six and carry two,
Gee, but this is hard to do.
You can think and think and think
Till your brains are numb,
I don't care what teacher says,
I can't do the sum.

Verse 2
If Clarence took fair Gwendolin
Out for an auto ride,
And if at sixty miles an hour
One kiss to capture tried,
And quite forgot the steering gear
On her honeyed lips to sup,
How soon could twenty men with brooms
Sweep Clare and Gwennie up?

(Repeat Refrain)

Verse 3
If Harold took sweet Imogene
With him one eve to dine,
And ordered half the hill of fare
With cataracts of wine,
If the bill of fare were thirteen ninety-five
And poor Harold had but four,
How many things would Harold strike
Before he struck the floor?

(Repeat Refrain)

Verse 4
If a woman had an English pug,
Ten children, and a cat,
And she tried in seven hours to find
A forty-dollar flat,
With naught but sunny outside rooms
In a neighborhood of tone,
How old would those ten children be
Before they found a home?

(Repeat Refrain)

Verse 5
If a pound of prunes cost thirteen cents
At half-past one today,
And the grocer is so bald he wears
A dollar-five toupee,
And if with every pound of tea
He will give two cut-glass plates,
How soon would Willie break his face
On his new roller skates?

(Repeat Refrain)