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Nursery Rhymes - Possible Origins

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The entries in this subject are possible origins to well-known nursery rhymes that have been researched and documented. In some cases the actual origin of a nursery rhyme cannot be traced and so multiple possible origins are considered.

Sources for this subject include Wikipedia and Nursery Rhymes - Lyrics and Origins

42 facts:

1 2 3 4 5
   possibly originated from   
The Teaching of Counting Skills
First published in 1888
3 Little Kittens
   possibly originated from   
A Cautionary Tale
First published in 1843
As I Was Going to St Ives
   possibly originated from   
A Logic Problem
First published in 1730. The math riddle has a similar version in existence in a papyrus purchased by Scottish Antiquarian Alexander Rhind in Luxor, Egypt, in 1858. The problem is list as No. 79. That papyrus has been dated to around 1650 BC.
Baa Baa Black Sheep
   possibly originated from   
Encouragement of the English Wool Industry
By King Edward II. First published in 1744
Baa Baa Black Sheep
   possibly originated from   
The Wool Taxes of King Edward I
First published in 1744. King Edward I of England
Ding Dong Bell
   possibly originated from   
A Morality Tale Inspired by Shakespeare
William Shakespeare used the phrase "Ding Dong Bell" in several plays. The original lyrics of "Ding Dong Bell" actually ended with the cat being left to drown! These words were modified and the cat was saved by 'Little Tommy Stout' to encourage children to understand that it was unacceptable and cruel to harm animals.
The Grand Old Duke of York
   possibly originated from   
The Battle of Wakefield
In 1460 during the Wars of the Roses between the house of York & the house of Lancaster, the Duke of York & his army marched to his castle at Sandal where Richard took up a defensive position against the Lancastrian army. The Castle was built on top of the site of an old motte and bailey fortress ("he marched them up to the top of the hill"). In a moment of madness he left his castle & went down to attack the Lancastrians (" he marched them down again"). His army was overwhelmed & the Duke of York was killed.
The Grand Old Duke of York
   possibly originated from   
The Construction of the Temple of Victory.
At Allerton Castle. Built by Prince Frederick, Duke of York on a 200 foot high hill. According to local legend, the activity of workers constantly ascending and descending while building is said to have inspired the nursery rhyme.
The Grand Old Duke of York
   possibly originated from   
The Invasion of Flanders
By Prince Frederick, Duke of York & Albany. The 2nd son of King George III and Commander-in-Chief of the British Army during the Napoleonic Wars. In 1793, a painstakingly-prepared attack on the northern conquests of the French Republic was led by the Duke himself. He won a small cavalry victory at Beaumont (April 1794) only to be heavily defeated at Tourcoing in May and recalled to England.
Hey Diddle Diddle
   possibly originated from   
A Fantasy Exercise Using Shakespearean Terms
First published in 1765. The term ' Hey diddle diddle' can be found in the works of Shakespeare and was a colloquialism used in much the same vein as "hey nonny no" which can be found in traditional English folk ballads.
Humpty Dumpty
   possibly originated from   
A Large Cannon
First published 1810. During the English Civil War (1642- 649) Colchester was laid siege to by the Parliamentarians (Roundheads). A shot from a Parliamentary cannon damaged the wall beneath the Royalist cannon (Humpty Dumpty) which caused it to fall. The Royalists (Cavaliers), 'all the King's men' attempted to raise the cannon on to another part of the wall. It was so heavy ' All the King's horses and all the King's men couldn't put Humpty together again!'. Colchester fell to the Parliamentarians after an 11 week siege.
Itsy Bitsy Spider
   possibly originated from   
An Exercise in Manual Dexterity
Jack & Jill
   possibly originated from   
The Executions of King Louis XVI & Queen Marie Antoinette
First published in 1795
Jack Sprat
   possibly originated from   
Archdeacon Pratt and His Wife Joan
As theorized in the book Popular Rhymes and Nursery Tales by James Orchard Halliwell-Phillipps
Jack Sprat
   possibly originated from   
The Misdeeds of Prince John & His Wife Joan
In 1189 English Prince John (Jack Sprat) married Joan, the ambitious, greedy daughter & heiress of the Earl of Gloucester ("Joan ate all the fat"). When King Richard I (Richard the Lionheart) went on Crusade, John attempted to take the crown of England. On his return from the Crusades King Richard was taken hostage by Duke Leopold demanding a ransom of 150,000 marks. John had to raise the ransom, leaving the country destitute for years ("They picked it clean").
Jack Sprat
   possibly originated from   
Queen Henrietta Maria's Illegal War Tax
When King Charles I (Jack Sprat) declared war on Spain, parliament refused to finance him (leaving him lean!) So his wife (Queen Henrietta Maria) imposed an illegal war tax (to get some fat!) after the angered King (Jack Sprat) dissolved Parliament.
Ladybug Ladybug
   possibly originated from   
The Chants of Farmers when Burning Crops Before Re-planting
First published in 1865
Little Boy Blue
   possibly originated from   
The Activites of Cardinal Wolsey
Wolsey was very unpopular. He was called the "Boy Bachelor" after obtaining his degree at age 15. The expression "Blowing one's own horn" means to brag, something Wolsey did a lot. In 1529 Henry declared all of Wolsey's lands and possessions forfeit. The words "where's the boy who looks after the sheep?" could refer to Wolsey's concern with lining his own coffers as opposed to that of the country. The cardinal's robes were scarlet but Wolsey's Blazon of Arms included the blue faces of 4 leopards.
Little Jack Horner
   possibly originated from   
The Misdeeds of Richard Whiting
Steward to the English Bishop of Glastonbury. Bishop of Glastonbury was born 1461, died 1539. First published in 1725
London Bridge is Falling Down
   possibly originated from   
The Many Incarnations of the Bridge Since Roman Times
Mary Had a Little Lamb
   possibly originated from   
An Event in Mary Sawyer's Childhood
Written by Sarah Hale of Boston, MA. 1830
The North Wind Doth Blow
   possibly originated from   
Lessons for Children Associating Home and Security
Old King Cole
   possibly originated from   
The Celtic King Coel Godhebog
Otherwise known as Cole the Magnificent, born AD 220
Old King Cole
   possibly originated from   
The Celtic King Coel Hen, Lord of Colchester
Otherwise known as Coel the Old. Born AD 350, died AD 420
Old King Cole
   possibly originated from   
The Celtic King Saint Ceneu Ap Coel
Son of Coel the Old, born AD 382
Oranges & Lemons
   possibly originated from   
Execution Processions
From Newgate Prison to the Tyburn Gallows prior to 1783
Pat a Cake Pat a Cake
   possibly originated from   
A Cooking Exercise
First published in 1698
Polly Put the Kettle on
   possibly originated from   
A Childrens' Game
First published in 1797. The game was played by the author's family
Pop Goes the Weasel
   possibly originated from   
Pawning One's Coat or Iron
Workers would pawn an object when they ran short of money for food near the end of the week. A weasel could be a flat iron or 'weasel and stoat' is Cockney rhyming slang for "coat"
Pop Goes the Weasel
   possibly originated from   
A Spinner's Machine
The "weasel" may refer to a spinner's weasel, a yarn measuring device consisting of a spoked wheel with an internal ratcheting mechanism that makes a "pop" sound after the desired length of yarn is measured. "Pop goes the weasel", describes the repetitive sound of a machine governing the tedious work of textile workers toiling for subsistence wages. The first 3 lines of each verse describe various ways of spending one's meager wages, with "pop goes the weasel" indicating a return to unpleasant labour.
Pussycat Pussycat
   possibly originated from   
Queen Elizabeth I's Lady in Waiting's Cat
Ride a Cock Horse to Banbury Cross
   possibly originated from   
Lady Katherine Banbury
Wife of English Lord Jonathon Banbury
Ring-a-Ring-a-Rosey
   possibly originated from   
The Symptoms of the Bubonic Plague
Sing a Song of Sixpence
   possibly originated from   
Pies Cooked Containing Live Birds
In medieval Europe.
There Was an Old Woman
   possibly originated from   
Introduction of Wigs Into English Court Life
By English King George II
There Was an Old Woman
   possibly originated from   
King George II and His Treatment of Parliament
There Was an Old Woman
   possibly originated from   
Queen Caroline, King George II, and Their Many Children
Three Blind Mice
   possibly originated from   
Queen Mary I and Her Pursuit of Treasonous Noblemen
Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
   possibly originated from   
The Musical Theme "Ah! Vous Dirai-je, Maman"
Wee Willie Winkie
   possibly originated from   
19th-century Scottish Curfews
Who Killed Cock Robin
   possibly originated from   
The Death of Fictional Hero Robin of Loxley
Also known as Robin Hood
Who Killed Cock Robin
   possibly originated from   
The Life & Death of Robert Walpole
English statesman born 1676, died 1745


Facts contributed by:


jmaxg








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