Tuesday, 27 October 2009

ABC Wednesday O for Origins

" Humpty, Dumpty.."

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall
All the king's horses and all the King's men
Couldn't put Humpty together again

The imagery of Humpty Dumpty
Humpty Dumpty was a colloquial term used in fifteenth century England describing someone who was obese. This has given rise to various, but inaccurate, theories surrounding the identity of Humpty Dumpty. The image of Humpty Dumpty was made famous by the illustrations included in the 'Alice through the looking glass' novel by Lewis Carroll. However, Humpty Dumpty was not a person pilloried in the famous rhyme!

The History and Origins of the Rhyme
Humpty Dumpty was in fact believed to be a large cannon! It was used during the English Civil War ( 1642 - 1649) in the Siege of Colchester (13 Jun 1648 - 27 Aug 1648).

"Little Miss Muffet"
Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet
Eating her curds and whey,
Along came a spider,
Who sat down beside her
And frightened Miss Muffet away

The rhyme first appeared in print in 1805, in a book titled Songs for the Nursery. Like many such rhymes, its origins are unclear. Some claim it was written by Dr. Thomas Muffet (d.1604), a sixteenth-century English entomologist, for his stepdaughters; others claim it refers to Mary, Queen of Scots (1543-87), who was said to have been frightened by religious reformer John Knox (1510-72). The former explanation is speculative and the latter is doubted by most literary scholars, who note that stories linking folk tales or songs to political events are often urban legends.

"Pussy Cat"
Pussycat, pussycat, where have you been?
I've been to London to visit the Queen.
Pussycat, pussycat, what did you there?
I frightened a little mouse under her chair.

The ORIGINS of the "Pussycat pussycat" rhyme dates back to the history of 16th century Tudor England. One of the waiting ladies of Queen Elizabeth Ist had an old cat which roamed throughout Windsor castle. On one particular occasion the cat ran beneath the throne where its tail brushed against the Queen's foot, startling her. Luckily 'Good Queen Bess' had a sense of humour and decreed that the cat could wander about the throne room, on condition it kept it free of mice!

"The cat and the fiddle..."
Hey diddle diddle,
The cat and the fiddle,
The cow jumped over the moon,
The little dog laughed to see such sport,
And the dish ran away with the spoon.

This old nonsense rhyme is probably just that - nonsense, however some people have suggested that the cat is Elizabeth Ist and the dog is Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester who she once referred to as her ‘lap dog.’

"London Bridge"
London Bridge is falling down,
Falling down, falling down,
London Bridge is falling down,
My fair Lady.

The 'London Bridge is falling down' Nursery Rhyme is based on the one of the most famous landmarks in London. It's history can be traced to the Roman occupation of England in the first century. The first London Bridge was made of wood and clay and was fortified or re-built with the various materials mentioned in the children's nursery rhyme. Many disasters struck the bridges - Viking invaders destroyed the bridge in the 1000's which led to a fortified design, complete with a drawbridge. Building materials changed due to the many fires that broke out on the bridge.

ABC is created by Denise Nesbitt and a team of experienced bloggers, whom we thank for their work.For more interesting ABC posts click on the logo in the sidebar or Here. This week we are looking for words beginning with O.


photowannabe said...

Fascinating Wil, I love trying to figure out the origins of words or phrases. This is an Original choice for O.

RuneE said...

I highly enjoyed that one. You know enough about Norway (and probably know) to appreciate that the Viking that pulled down London bridge was the later St. Olav (or St. Olaf). In Norway known as "Olav den Hellige".

Nice one!

Sylvia K said...

Oh, this one is terrific Wil! I love learning the origins of words and the history. Really fascinating and fun!



Anya said...

Het is erg interesant vandaag op uw blogje (hoe komt u op t idee)
U bent een fantasierijk persoon
(Zeker weten)
Ik moet altijd dagen nadenken wat ik weer op mijn blog zet,
in november blog ik een jaar ik had nooit gedacht dat ik het zolang zou volhouden hihihi....
Fijne Avond :)

Pacey said...

Ah, was a member of the Humpty Dumpty team in Kindergarten, hehehe...what a beautiful memory for me. Thanks for this post. Groetjes!

Vicki Lane said...

Thanks, Wil! I always enjoy learning the origins of familiar words or stories.

So glad you're enjoying book 4!!!

Miss_Yves said...


Patty said...

We also taught these to our children when they were small.

gleaner said...

I really enjoy reading about the origins of words and sayings, all fascinating!

PERBS said...

That was very interesting! I knew a couple of them but not all you mentioned.

anthonynorth said...

Some excellent explanations there. Enjoyed it. Some get even deeper, such as Baa Baa Black Sheep (initially a tax protest), Ring a Ring of Roses (the plague) and Goosey Goosey Gander (a memory of London prostitutes).

Cloudia said...

You ave brought us an interesting post today, Wil.

Interestingly, the Hawaiians named their cannon too.

Aloha, Friend!

Comfort Spiral

Renie Burghardt said...

Interesting post on the origins of nursery rhymes, that my children used to recite. But your posts are always interesting, Wil!



Pam said...

You are a fun teacher, Wil. I love to learn from you because you do it in such a special way. No matter how old we get I don't think we ever out grow our love of the nursery rhymes we learned as a child.

Granny Smith said...

This is a truly delightful (as well as educational) response to O. I really enjoyed the Y-Tube animation! Now all I have to do is figure out this new link system. I can't seem to get any lists of entries, nor do I think I'm on one.

George said...

I hadn't heard the stories behind most of these nursery rhymes. They were interesting even if they aren't necessarily true.

Arkansas Patti said...

Thank you Wil for a trip back a few years to a much simpler time.
I am always curious as to the origin of things.
I just did a similar search on the childrens song, "Do your ears hang low?" Found lots of speculation, nothing definitive.
Enjoyed your post.

Spiderdama said...

Interesting!:-) Thanks for comment about Norway -Og god norsk!
Ønsker om en flott uke!

Hildred and Charles said...

Very interesting post Wil, as always. Love those nursery rhymes, - they stay with us forever.

Maria Berg said...

original post - interesting to look through.

I been to mirror lake and it was a wonderful day so a lot of reflections - it was so great, MB

Mara said...

I knew all of them! How brilliant. And did you know Humpty Dumpty had a great fall due to being shot? Read 'The Big Over Easy' by Jasper Fforde and all will be revealed!

Maria Berg said...

Yes NZ do look like Scandinavian and I would like to live there if it was not so far away so my children would not have seen the grandparents so often.
But In a few years time I will go on a trips for a few months back to NZ/Australian with my hole family,


Q said...

Thank you for the history lesson.
It is so interesting to learn the whys of a culture.

Carol said...

What a great O post.....so interesting and fun...

Carol @ TheWritersPorch said...

Really interesting Wil! I love knowing the origins of things.I guess it's the history lover in me. These are the same rhymes I read my children and grans! :) xoxo

Roger Owen Green said...

great post; my daughter will love it.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Would you believe, reader wil, that some educational busybody here is trying to rewrite Humpty Dumpty so that he does get put together again, so as not to upset small children. These nursery rhymes are an integral part of our heritage and all children should learn them as a matter of course I think.

Janie said...

Greatly original O! I enjoyed learning the theories on origins of these nursery rhymes.

hip chick said...

that is very interesting. And, that is one really really cute dog

Judi said...

Fascinating and original O!

Tumblewords: said...

Original O and surely fascinating. You've done an admirable job of organizing these origins!

Jama said...

Interesting posts!

Rose said...

Fascinating, Reader Wil! I always enjoy learning the origins of expressions. I've heard the story of "London Bridge" before, but not the others.

I'm not sure that young children today learn nursery rhymes as they used to; for me, they're nostalgic as it was my grandmother who taught them all to me.

jay said...

I loved this post! I have an abiding interest in the origins of nursery rhymes, and have several books on the subject - which often contradict each other!

And I went to school in Colchester too! I can well imagine a cannon built into that old Roman wall.