About Me

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I am a retired English teacher and department head, the mother of three, grand mother of three, and have been married to the same man for 42 years. I subscribe to Dr. PM Forni's concept of Civility. I was born in South Philadelphia and grew up in the 'burbs. I love soft pretzels and cheesesteaks, the Phillies, the Eagles, and San Diego. I love being Mom, Aunt Kathy, Nona Kathy, and Teacher. I spend a lot of time in my gardens in the spring and summer, and in the winter I plan what I'm going to plant. I also am an avid reader and photographer.

Translator!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Jack and Jill Went Up the Hill...

One of my favorite interests as a young mother and now an equally young grand mother :) has been to teach the babies nursery rhymes.  I repeat them so much that by age 17 months, they fill in where I hesitate.  Of course, they don't know the real meanings of these sordid tales, and for right now, they will be our little secret.

Most people know that "Ring Around the Rosie" refers to the bubonic plague and that the ring around the red rash was a sign of the illness.  The rest of the nursery rhyme is pretty self-explanatory and gruesome.  Jack and Jill refers to Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette of France.  The ending was modified to make it more palatable to children.

I'd always thought that Humpty Dumpty referred to George III, who suffering from what they now think is porphyria, fell into madness before his death in 1820.  Actually, Humpty Dumpty was a cannon that was so big and unwieldy that it was impossible to handle.  The conception of the cannon was one of those things that looked good on paper.

The baby's favorite, at least right now, is "Mary, Mary, quite contrary; how does your garden grow.  With silver bells, and cockleshells, and pretty maids all in a row."  Sounds sweet, doesn't it?  Mary refers to Mary Stuart, "Bloody Mary" -- a staunch Catholic and eldest daughter of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon,  who executed by burning at the stake about 300  who refused to practice Catholicism.  Silver bells and cockle shells were implements of torture -- silver bells were like thumbscrews and cockleshells were attached to the genitals -- and 'pretty maids all in a row' refers to the headstones of the hundreds martyred, although in other nursery rhymes, 'maids' were also guillotines.

Wait until you see what "Georgie Porgie" really means!!

16 comments:

A Slice of My Life said...

Oh sure...just burst my bubble about those sweet nursery rhymes!

Purple Flowers said...

You're killing me! LOL

Paula from Amen Corners said...

Very interesting, traumatizing but interesting :)

Jay said...

So my mother reading "Helter Skelter" to me really wasn't all that bad after all, huh? ;-)

Happyone :-) said...

I didn't know that about Mary, Mary. I'll have to go and check out Georgie.

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

I'd heard about the other two, but I didn't know about Jack and Jill. (But to be pedantic, Marie Antionette's husband was Louis XVI, not Henry. I'm guessing you know that and were thinking ahead to what you were going to type about Mary, Mary) Anyway, it's amazing that these things became childrens' fare.

Seth M. Ward said...

Finally! I can now get auto updates:D Hope you are well. Did you sign up on my follow widget??? TTYL!

Gilly said...

I read a really interesting piece about Humpty Dumpty only yesterday! Apparently that rhyme, or at least the sense of the rhyme, it was originally a riddle, goes back to prehistoric days. For as long as there has been writing, that riddle has appeared somewhere. Its universal across the planet!

I find that really amazing! Will try and find the link.

jane said...

didn´t know about the last one... am going to check out the link. thanks!

fiwa said...

OMG! I knew that about pocket full of posies - but it never occurred to me that the others had hidden meanings too! That is fascinating Kathy - now I'm going to have to go research those further. Thanks!!!

beachgirl said...

Great research on those. I learn something new everyday.

cri said...

I like pinoli, but biscuits are great with chocolate!!
Marco Mengoni was my favourite singer at S. remo, but Scanu won... oh my god!! He is a very middle singer, boring, only teenager or aged women love him!! But the trio won the 2nd place: I can't explain how I'm angry. It's political situation too, it's hard to explain.
Italy is great, but our politics aren't good people,they steal, lie,and we are boring and tired...

Sweet Virginia Breeze said...

How interesting! I'll never listen to a nursery rhyme again without thinking about the hidden meaning.

Theresa said...

Very interesting. I love your header garden photo. Come on over for an interesting giveaway! Your grandchildren might like it.

Cheryl said...

You're just full of info, Kathy. I love it.

Deblynne said...

I remember reading when my children were toddlers that the nursery rhymes teach children the sounds of words and makes them ready to read in a few years. Rock a bye baby is good because it has many vowel sounds (even though the meaning is not so good)