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My Turtle Swims Sideways

Note: I am sharing this again. It is one of the most commented upon posts on my blog!

This song has generated some controversy. Feel free to comment yourself, but remember that a Scout is courteous.

About the My Turtle Swims Sideways Song

The Scout song “My Turtle Swims Sideways” is a playful and engaging tune that often rings around campfires and gatherings. Set to the tune of “Pomp and Circumstance,” it’s easy to sing along and brings a light-hearted touch to the gathering.

With simple lyrics and gestures, the song tells the whimsical story of two turtles, one swimming sideways, the other upside down. Participants mimic the swimming motions to bring the story to life. These physical cues add an interactive element that is enjoyable for both participants and spectators.

This song is not only fun to sing but also serves as an icebreaker, fostering a sense of community and camaraderie. Whether at a scout meeting or family campout, it’s sure to bring smiles and laughter to those gathered around.

Why Some Don’t Like the Song

The Scout song “My Turtle Swims Sideways” has drawn criticism from some members of the community due to its surprising and somewhat morbid ending. Commenters have expressed concern over the inclusion of themes such as death, arguing that they are inappropriate for the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). The view is that these themes are not aligned with the positive values that should be promoted within the BSA, and that they might contribute to a negative culture within the organization. Concerns also extend to other negative aspects such as bathroom humor or making fun of others.

Another point of contention is related to the changing cultural norms and sensibilities. An Aquatics Director, mentions the shift from referring to the “dead man float” to the “jellyfish float,” indicating a broader societal movement away from using potentially offensive terms. There is a belief that just because something has been done for years doesn’t mean it’s acceptable now. Commenters also expressed frustration with the inconsistency in the rules governing what is deemed appropriate, reflecting a broader debate over where to draw the line between tradition and sensitivity.

The Reaction to the Controversy

In response to the criticism surrounding the song “My Turtle Swims Sideways,” a lot of commenters have expressed support for the tune. The supporters of the song argue that children are smarter and more discerning than they are often given credit for, and they can differentiate between humor and reality.

Another common theme among the supporters is a call for a more relaxed attitude towards such songs. One points out that darker themes are prevalent in many popular children’s stories, including Disney movies and lullabies like “Rock-a-bye Baby.” And they emphasize the joy and camaraderie that such songs bring to scouting, suggesting that those opposed might be missing the point of these activities.

Furthermore, some commenters advise using personal judgment to decide what’s appropriate for individual scout groups. They emphasize knowing the temperament and sense of humor of the children involved and making an informed decision based on that knowledge. Others decry the influence of political correctness, expressing nostalgia for a time when songs like this could be enjoyed without controversy.

Finally, there’s a sentiment that the song is simply a fun and silly tradition, loved by many for its simplicity and ability to bring laughter to group activities. The song can lighten the mood during difficult hikes, illustrating the positive impact such songs can have on group morale.

In summary, the supporters of “My Turtle Swims Sideways” view it as a harmless, fun tradition and an outlet for emotions. They argue that children are capable of understanding the difference between a joke and reality and call for a more balanced and nuanced approach to evaluating such content within the scouting community.

My Turtle Swims Sideways Song

I appreciate all of the additional verses which were added to the comments, so I am including them here so you can decide which to use.

(Sing to the tune of Pomp and Circumstance)

My turtle swims sideways. (Make a swimming motion to one side)
Your turtle swims upside down. (Tilt your head back and make a swimming motion upwards)
My turtle swims sideways. (Make a swimming motion to the side again)
Your turtle is DEAD! (Tilt your head back and flop your hands back.)

Additional Verses from Comments

My turtle swims sideways
Your turtle swims round and round (turn in a circle)
My turtle swims sideways
Your turtle is SOUP.

My turtle eats cornmeal.
Your turtle eats mush.
My turtle eats cornmeal.
Your turtle’s still dead!

My fishie swims upstream,
Your fishie floats down,
My fishie swims upstream,
Your fishie DROWNED!

My turtle speaks es-span-yol.
Your turtle does not.
My turtle speaks es-span-yol.
Your turtle is French.

Harmony of Scouting: The Power of Songs

Songs like “My Turtle Swims Sideways” are often used in Scouting programs to foster a sense of camaraderie and fun. They can provide a light-hearted break from more serious activities and help build a sense of community within the group. The humor and simplicity of such songs appeal to the Scouts, creating memorable moments that often become beloved traditions. While they might sometimes spark controversy due to their content, proponents argue that they are part of a larger culture of humor and bonding that contributes positively to the overall Scouting experience.

Frequently Asked Questions about the My Turtle Swims Sideways Song

What is the “My Turtle Swims Sideways” song?

The song is a simple, humorous chant often sung in Scouting programs. It involves hand gestures and a playful tune, sung to the melody of “Pomp and Circumstance.”

Why has the My Turtle Swims Sideways song become controversial?

Some individuals have expressed concern about the song’s ending, where a turtle is declared “dead.” They feel it may be inappropriate for young Scouts, while others believe it’s a harmless, fun tradition.

Can I modify the lyrics to the My Turtle Swims Sideways song?

Certainly! Many leaders and Scouts have made alterations to the song to fit the preferences of their particular group.

Are there alternative songs if I decide not to use My Turtle Swims Sideways?

Yes, there are numerous other Scouting songs that can be used in place of “My Turtle Swims Sideways.” Leaders and older Scouts often have a repertoire of songs that can be shared. See my songs page for more ideas.

What are the benefits of including songs like My Turtle Swims Sideways in Scouting programs?

Songs like this can enhance camaraderie, joy, and a sense of community within the Scouting group. They can offer a light-hearted way to bond and share a laugh.


40 responses to “My Turtle Swims Sideways”

  1. Shelly Avatar

    I am going to be blunt. I do not like the ending of this song. What happened to positive values with songs and skits? Death, suicide, making fun others or something, cross dressing, have no place in BSA. The boys get enough of it with their video games, let’s not promote even more.

    I was checking songs and skits the Cubs were going to be doing at our Day Camp Family program. I had leaders upset with me about not allowing to use bathroom humor, beating another Cub Scout or about something dead in their songs and skits. They wanted me to provide them with positive feedback about their ‘sick’ songs and skits.

    We are the Boy Scouts of America and we need to rise above the gore, bathroom humor, body functions and making fun of others in our songs and skits. And it begins with us, who use the internet as a media to promote Scouting.

    1.  Avatar

      Loosen up, Shelly. Kids know the difference between humor and reality.

    2. Anonymous Avatar

      Get over yourself, Shelly, and give the kids a little credit. They are much smarter than you seem to give them credit for. It seems much better to me to produce a Scout that can have a giggle over some potty humor or some embarrassing situation that we all might experience than to make a boy that is protected from the world around him to the point that he cannot differentiate between reality and humor.

    3. Pete Avatar

      Shelly is a great name for a turtle.

    4. Mary Avatar

      People need to loosen up. I have heard many worse songs at Girl Scout Camp than at Boy Scout Camp. Three buzzards sitting in a dead tree, Throw it out the window (the second story window), Da Moose, Da Moose, and many others where the animals or children die. Have you ever seen a Disney movie where one or both parents are not dead or killed? Have you heard the lullaby, Rock-a-bye Baby? I prefer these songs to the skit where the boys spit into each other’s mouths.

    5. clark Avatar

      This is the type of we the boy scouts/cub scouts like. We see no problem with it, and its not like it makes us violent. That is just boy scout humor

    6. Anonymous Avatar

      I know you probably won’t look at this, Shelly, but I’m going to be blunt with you: Shelly is a weird name for a boy. Just kidding this is what I was going to say: No one else cares about this but you. What’s a little violence or potty humor? If you care so much about what your fellows are exposed to, you should recommend they all make up their own skits

    7. Peyton Avatar

      I agree with Shelly. Maybe now in 2023 others will too.

      1. Joe Avatar
    8. Oliver Avatar

      Scouts just like dark humor, we never take any of it seriously, and we never intend to actually hurt anyone or anything. It’s just a dumb song.

  2. LIScouter Avatar

    You forgot to mention that it is sung to the tune of Pomp & Circumstance.

  3. Julee Avatar

    You often write the lyrics to songs. Some I have heard before, others I have not. Do you know if there is an audio version of these songs available, either on YouTube or on CD. I’d love to introduce new songs to my scouts but without a tune to go by, it is almost impossible.

    1. Scouter Mom Avatar
      Scouter Mom

      See the comment above. I guess I never realized it, but it is Pomp and Circumstance, so I’ve added that in the article. You can always search YouTube. Most of these popular Scout songs are on there.

  4. Irene Avatar

    Loosen up Shelly. Stop being overprotective and overbearing, Kids know the difference between reality and make believe. For aeons children have found this type of humor hilarious. It is an outlet for emotions otherwise left unspoken to.

  5. Jen Avatar

    oh for heavens sake, Shelly. seriously. loosen up. they are boys. you can’t stiffle them or take the fun out of scouting for them. I’m also going to be blunt, because you seem to appreciate that.

    it may not be the type of song YOU would choose, but you have to remember this is BOY scouts and stop trying to soften it or less “sick”. don’t ruin it for them.

    If you don’t approve of the type of humor and fun that boys in scouts have been participating in for over a hundred years now, then maybe YOU need to leave the scouting program, because you’re the one who is not getting it.

    what you should be focused on, rather than how “sick” you think it is, are the smiling faces and happiness and camaraderie that is happening all around you.

    I think this is a great little song, and I would proudly teach it to my boys.

  6. kjk28 Avatar

    My boys LOVE this song, perhaps because of its simplicty.

  7. StJoeMikey Avatar

    I want to thank Shelly. I really do. I read the song, and I was wondering if I should do it at Resident Camp next month. I then thought of my perfect target, a Wolf that loves to give me crap all the time, but he and I love the back and forth and have a lot of fun with it.

    Then I read Shelly’s comment, and I am even more fired up to do this before the hundreds of boys at our Resident Camp and I will do it again at Webelos Weekend the week after. I will even include it if needed for Wood Badge also next month.

    So thank you Shelly. Oh and Shelly…your turtle is dead.

    1. Andrea Avatar

      I promise it will be a huge hit. They sang it at Cub Scout Day Camp for my district this summer and the boys requested it EVERY DAY! They love it for some reason.

      I had to admit that I had some issues with the fact that the turtle is dead, but boys know the difference between a joke and real life. My sons would cry a river if they saw a dead turtle. But this song makes them laugh their heads off for some reason!

  8. Scouter Mom Avatar
    Scouter Mom

    Who knew a four line song could be so controversial!

    As you can guess from my posts, I don’t have any problem with these types of songs/skits. As I said, ZM and LC loved this song. But they certainly are very respectful of wildlife and are sad when they see a dead animal in the wild, as are their friends. So I don’t see any problem with using this material in our unit. They know the difference.

    But as I always say, use your own best judgement with your own scouts. Some groups of kids might be different. If you think their temperament or nature or sense of humor is going to cause this song to have a negative impact on how they act and view the world, then don’t use it.

  9. Sherry Avatar

    There is another verse that not everyone knows about:

    My turtle swims side ways
    Your turtle swims round and round (turn in a circle)
    My turtle swims side ways
    Your turtle is SOUP.

    All of the scouts from Tigers to 2nd year Webelos in our Pack love singing this song. They request it often. It is all in fun and what boy doesn’t like singing about dead turtles. We all know a little dirt never hurt anyone.

  10. Shawn Avatar

    There is actually several verses to this song. I will have to ask my son when he gets home what they all are. But it’s a common song sung at many of our camporees when the boys are showing troop spirit and singing competitive songs during the lull of waiting for the next event.

    It’s called troop or patrol spirit.. Shelly.

    You do realize that scouting is supposed to be fun right? If I measured scouts moral compass by such an innocuous song, I shudder to think of what punitive judgement you pass for a more serious infraction.

    1. Scouter Mom Avatar
      Scouter Mom

      Yes, if you have additional verses, please post them in the comments.

  11. Andrea Avatar

    I wonder what Shelly would think of the bumblebee song. The bee gets squashed, eaten, thrown up, mopped up, and who knows what else! LOL!!

    It’s just a song!

  12. PJ Avatar

    We sang this at Camp School and then they mentioned how it might not be correct to say dead anymore. It’s just the way things go this day. As an Aquatics Director, I was taught that we do not do the dead man float anymore, we now do the jellyfish float. So just because something has been done for years doesn’t make it ok now.

    Besides, Turtle Soup sounds yummier.

  13. Nick Avatar

    I’m 19
    I’m an eagle scout
    And I love this song, it’s funny for kids to sing at camp
    I looked forward to singing it every summer when I was younger

  14. scoutmasterjeff Avatar

    This is a great song. The boys love it. I was just at BSA Florida Seabase and it was sung at Flag ceremony for graduation of crews who completed scuba certification. The song is harmless.

  15. EagleWife Avatar

    This is, beyond a doubt, the most ridiculous song ever. Our Webelos LOVE it! 🙂 They can’t wait to teach it to the rest of the boys at our next Pack Meeting.

    (And I agree that Shelly needs to lighten up. I’m not sure how it became a suicidal, cross-dressing turtle. Perhaps “Shelly” is just a bit sensitive about turtles because they, too, have “shells.”)

  16. Mike Avatar

    Our Troop loves this song and sings it often just for their Scoutmaster, who got a little tired of hearing it all the time at one of the camps. Now our Troop has a new verse to add for the next time they want to sing to their Scoutmaster. 🙂

  17. madmommy Avatar

    We love this song! It was the first one we taught to our Tiger Cubs last year. We also added the verse:

    My turtle eats cornmeal.
    Your turtle eats mush.
    My turtle eats cornmeal.
    Your turtle’s still dead!

    Our asst. den master and I attended a women’s outdoor camping event, and at the campfire that night we sang this song. Apparently, word got around to the event coordinator, who then made us stand up in front of the 100 participants, many instructors, and kitchen staff the next day to sing it again, to thunderous applause 🙂

  18. Ken Avatar

    I have heard this at a number of camps. One camp sings it with reindeer! And now that I think of it, I never thought it was about death, anumal abuse or halucinogenics ( to actually see flying reindeer or turtles). It is just a SILLY SONG !!!! And yes, all of our scouts enjoy it. Sometimes during a difficult hike or climb, someone will just start singing it, everyone cracks up……scout on…..

  19. JP Avatar

    I understand both sides that have shared their comments. The main point it sounds like is for everyone to read up on the current BSA guidelines about skits and songs and follow them. I know they are not always popular policies, but they are there for a reason and as leaders we all have a responsibility to follow BSA policy whether we like it or not.

  20. Scott Avatar

    This is not a new song, Boys like silly songs…

  21. Jeannie Avatar

    Our kids learned this when they went to SeaBase as a Venture Crew! They are all in their 20’s now, but it is still one of their favorite songs. Must everything be controlled by Political Correctness? Remember when little kids used to sing ‘Squishing Up a Bumblebee’? Next they won’t be able to sing ‘Ring Around the Rosie’ because it originated with the Black Death. GEEESH!

  22. Jaymie Avatar

    We have another verse:

    My fishie swims upstream,
    Your fishie floats down,
    My fishie swims upstream,
    Your fishie DROWNED!

    My Scouts love this song and were excited for another verse. Happy Singing y’all!

  23. jj Avatar

    my turtle speaks es-span-yol
    your turtle does not
    my turtle speaks es-span-yol
    your turtle is french

    this is what my family sings all the time

  24. Not shelly Avatar
    Not shelly

    The most interesting part of this thread, in terms of character development for our kids, is not that “Shelly” had an issue with the song.

    The interesting part is the attacking everyone piles on “Shelly”

    Really is a shame the parents who are supposed to be teaching our kids about character can’t let someone state a differing opinion without piling on and berating them.

  25. Jess Avatar

    I’m really disappointed by the way adults are attacking someone who didn’t agree with the lyrics of the song. I’m a Day Camp Director. Am I frustrated that we can’t sing the “real” lyrics to songs like Baby Shark? Yes. (Because it could be offensive to an amputee if we hop on one leg indicating the swimmer was bitten. We can’t pretend to have wings and go to Heaven because not all scouts believe in Heaven, and that would be pushing one narrow religious belief on all of them. I could go on.) This is a PC nightmare, and I’m frustrated by the heightened, abrasive, PC state of our culture right now.

    And also, my daughter sings way worse at Girl Scout Camp, too. (Read the lyrics to “She Sat on a Hillside.” But it’s not about the comparison of which songs are “worse” than others.

    I personally think it’s ridiculous that we dissect and attack every single song. Keeping in mind that even nursery rhymes are morbid.

    BUT – as leaders and parents, do we always agree? Isn’t that why we have committee meetings? So we can discuss things, openly disagree, and respect one another?

    We do not teach our boys the points of the scout law by not living them ourselves – in all of our interactions. It’s a delicate balance to be loyal, courteous, and kind, while sometimes being brave and standing up for ourselves or others – but this is not how we teach them.

    Shelly, I disagree with you. I think this song is funny. Do turtles die in the wild? Of course. A moose might die in the wild too – perhaps while swimming “in da water” … but if it bothers you and you don’t like the song, don’t sing it. And if you’re in a pack with Shelly – don’t provoke and don’t sing it.

    We need to do a better job of teaching our young men to be honorable, respectful, compassionate adults. That’s why this program exists.

  26. John Burdick Avatar
    John Burdick

    Admittedly this song is my favorite song and it is my go to when called upon to sing a song. However, I was informed that it was not Cub appropriate. My second favorite Baby Shark also isn’t Cub appropriate. Finally my third favorite is the Wigalo and has been determined to be hazing. The boys like the songs and we changed the Wigalo to call a whole den or patrol at a time instead of an individual.

    I have a problem with the rules however or the people determining what is appropriate when they will leave in a song like Johnny Verbeck or Clementine.

    Just my two cents. You have to follow the rules of your council and use some common sense.

  27. Matthew Paris Avatar
    Matthew Paris

    I love the song, my scouts love the song. You hear a lot of songs like this at camp, potty humor or questionable content. Is something you have to get use to hearing. If you don’t like them, then you choose not to participate and don’t take them home. As for everyone bashing or tearing down Shelly, please remember we are all SCOUTS and we live by the oath and law. Think about your comments, how you are treating others, and the example you are setting.

  28. Stefan Kabir Avatar
    Stefan Kabir

    Our children took in this when they went to SeaBase as a Venture Crew! They are all in their 20’s currently, yet it is as yet one of their main tunes. Must everything be constrained by Political Correctness?

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