resurrecting wee willie, georgie porgie and mother hubbard

Does anyone teach their kids nursery rhymes anymore? 

When my kids were little I was constantly stupefied by the fact that their little pals didn’t seem to know very many nursery rhymes.  Sure, there was Itsy Bitsy Spider and Pat a Cake, but not much else.  Reciting    Ride a Cock Horse to Banbury Cross  got me nothing but cross-eyed stares.

Nursery rhymes are fascinating bits of history.   Some of them preserve colloquialisms, like Pop Goes the Weasel .  In Cockney slang, that phrase refers to pawning a coat. 

Some nursery rhymes tell about trades that are no longer plied.  Old Chairs to Mend refers to a door-to-door job common in the 1700’s.

Other nursery rhymes are prayers, like Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

Mary, Mary Quite Contrary  refers to Mary Tudor, the Catholic daughter of Henry VIII who tortured Protestants that would not reconvert to Catholicism.  What a subversive way to ridicule a ruling despot!

It seems that in our time, the nursery rhymes that have a tune or are a finger play are still remembered.  But the ones that are recited simply for the beauty of the idea or the words have fallen by the wayside.

And what a shame.  Memorizing nursery rhymes probably does something to the way the literary  part of your brain works.  My guess is that someone who listens to and recites language possesses it in a way that a purely visual reader can’t. 

Not that we should give up visual reading.  Holy guacamole!  There’s way too much reading to do in this world to give that up.

But can’t we slow down enough to give our kids a love of the sound of our language?

Here’s the nursery rhyme that I loved as a kid, purely for the sound of the words:


Bobby Shaftoe

 Bobby Shaftoe’s gone to sea

With silver buckles on his knee.

He’ll come back and marry me.

Pretty Bobby Shaftoe.


Bobby Shaftoe’s fat and fair,

Combing down his yellow hair.

He’s my love forever more.

Pretty Bobby Shaftoe.




Anybody else have a favorite nursery rhyme?                            






About Lisha Cauthen

Lisha Cauthen writes YA novels for guys that girls like to read too.

Posted on June 12, 2008, in childrens' literature and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on resurrecting wee willie, georgie porgie and mother hubbard.

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