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Saturday, 23 March 2013

The Meaning Behind Nursery Rhymes.

We have just been having a discussion about nursery rhymes and how they came about. After looking into it we have found a lot of what we thought is probably wrong.

It is commonly thought in England that the Nursery Rhyme 'Ring of Roses' relates to the plague of 1665.

Ring-a-ring o' roses, (It is thought that this relates to a rash that accompanied the black death)
A pocket full of posies, (People carried posies to ward of the plague)
A-tishoo! A-tishoo! (Sneezing or coughing was a symptom)
We all fall down. (and finally death)

This explanation to the rhyme didn't come until after the 2nd World war which leads scholars to believe this was not the original meaning of the song and more likely it was just a children's dancing game where the fall at the end was actually a curtsy.

Another common theory is that Oranges and Lemons relates to public executions. It is thought that it is more likely sung on festive days of the church when the bells were rung and that the final two lines were added on later.

One nursery rhyme that is hopefully straight forward is 'London Bridge is Falling Down' which we all believe is about the deterioration of London Bridge due to its age and the great fire of London in 1666. Although there are still other theories this is still the most likely explanation.

The nursery rhyme Baa Baa Black Sheep is said to refer to a Wool Tax in 1275 that saw a large percentage of the profit in going to the king (The master).

What ever the original meaning behind nursery rhymes there is something comforting in the tradition of singing them and passing them down from generation to generation. We continue to sing them to our babies or teach our children the actions or dances to accompany them. Steeped in history our heritage gets passed on through these simple rhymes.


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