Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

I have had a few students asking me where the saying ‘Tinker tailor soldier spy’ comes from.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a 2011 movie of the 1974 John Le Carre novel by the same name.

There is a counting name which goes

Tinker, Tailor,
Soldier, Sailor,
Rich Man, Poor Man,
Beggar Man, Thief.

Rich man, poor man,
Beggar man, thief.
Doctor, lawyer,
Indian chief !

A counting-out game is a simple way of selecting a person to be ‘it’, often for the purpose of playing another game. These games usually require no materials, and are played with spoken words or hand gestures. Many such games involve one person pointing at each participant in a circle of players while reciting.  A new person is pointed at as each word is said. The player who is selected at the conclusion of the rhyme is “it” or “out”.

Another one is:

Eeny, meeny, miny, moe,

Catch a tiger by the toe.

If he hollers, let him go,

Eeny, meeny, miny, moe.


The word ‘tinker’ is often seen as not politically correct in English anymore. From Wikipedia:

A tinker was originally an itinerant tinsmith, who mended household utensils. The term “tinker” became used in British society to refer to marginalized persons. In this later sense, “tinker” may mean:

Author: Janet Carr

Fashion, beauty and animal loving language consultant from South Africa living in Stockholm, Sweden.

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