The Disturbing Origins of 5 Common Nursery Rhymes

#2. Pop Goes the Weasel

All around the mulberry bush

The monkey chased the weasel;

The monkey thought 'twas all in good sport

Pop! goes the weasel.

A penny for a spool of thread,

A penny for a needle-

That's the way the money goes,

Pop! goes the weasel.

We Thought it Meant...

Spontaneous combustion in the animal kingdom, along with an assertion that all monkeys are douchebags.

But Some Experts Say...

Pop goes the Weasel is a merry tune centered on an all too familiar children's theme: the cycle of poverty in society.

A good chunk of the poem is made up of plays on words that are themselves Cockney slang terms from the old days. So for instance, "Pop" is a slang term meaning to pawn something (that is, sell it at a pawn shop) while "weasel" translates to "coat". Does that help? No?

Well, the deal was that no matter how piss poor a London man was back in the day, he was expected to own a suit in order to dress nicely on Sunday. The trick to being able to do this was to pawn your suit ("Pop goes the weasel") on Monday and then purchase it back before Sunday.

One of the lesser-known, but more traditional verses states:

Up and down the City road,

In and out the Eagle,

That's the way the money goes,

Pop! goes the weasel.

The Eagle refers to The Eagle Tavern in northern London, reminding young ones about excessive poverty due to heavy drinking and depression--a lesson that every child should know by age 5.

#1. Mary, Mary Quite Contrary

Mary Mary quite contrary,

How does your garden grow?

With silver bells and cockleshells

And pretty maids all in a row.

We Thought it Meant...

A cute old woman with an interest in horticulture. Oh, and it has the word "cockleshell." We like that.


A dick bouquet of cockleshells. Weiner.

But Some Experts Say...

Queen "Bloody" Mary was popular enough to frequent a number of nursery rhymes, which is pretty impressive all these centuries later. How many nursery rhymes do you appear in? Yeah, that's what we thought. You need to start doing something with your life.

Anyway, in this delightful tune, Mary is addressed first-hand about all of the poor saps she's sent to the graveyard (her garden). The silver bells refer to instruments of torture that crushed the thumb with the tightening of a screw, and cockleshells (heh) were torture devices that were attached to the genitals. Come on, don't act surprised. They're called cockleshells for God's sake.

The maids in the final line allude to the newly invented guillotine, which was nicknamed The Maiden.

They called it "The Maiden" because the first moniker, "Captain Choppy," never caught on [citation needed].

If your childhood isn't sufficiently ruined check out The Gruesome Origins of 5 Popular Fairy Tales or take a look back at 8 Kids Movies That Lied to Us.

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