Mein Hut der hat drei Ecken,
Drei Ecken hat mein Hut.
Und hätt' er nicht drei Ecken
dann wär' es nicht mein Hut.
My hat, it has three corners,
Three corners has my hat.
And had it not three corners
It would not be my hat.
This silly ditty is a German folk song--or rather a children's song of uncertain origin first recorded in the Saarland, in south-western Germany, in 1886. The tune is that of a Neapolitan canzonetta called "O cara mamma mia" that's at least 70 years older. One can only suspect the hand of the intellectual kin of Edward Lear being involved in its creation.
Its tune and silly subject have made it a favourite of German children (and child-like adults) for the last hundred years. There's a children's game that goes with it that's often played in German kindergarten and primary schools as a fun linguistic lesson. It's very effective in teaching kids to associate gestures with words and notions and goes as follows:
The song is sung six times, taped accompaniment optional but preferred. Each round after the first a word is replaced with a gesture denoting the word, in the following order:
- Mein (my) - point to yourself
- Hut (hat) - form a triangular "hat" with your hands
- drei (three) - show three fingers
- Ecken (corners) - form an angle with your hands, like a corner
- nicht (not) - shake your head
By the third round the first kids will have trouble following and you may never get to the sixth before the song dissolves into a bunch of kids gesturing wildly, trying to follow while laughing at the others' failure to do so. It's absolutely hilarious to a five or six-year old and has a totally unforgettable, stupidly cheerful tune of the kind that will make grown men giggle.
Of course its essential silliness lends itself to spoofs using something other than "hat" as the three-cornered subject of the song. One of the all-time favourite replacements for Hut (pronounced "hoot" by the way) is the not too dissimilar Hund (dog) which gives rise to gems such as...
My dog it has three corners
Addendum regarding the last item: There used to be a quite hilarious node with that title which ultimately outgrew itself and lost most of its humour value.