And “pretty maids all in a row” is supposed to be about either offing Lady Jane Grey (a.k.a. Their easy language and catchy hooks get lodged in your brain instantly, but for the most part, these songs lay dormant in some neuron storage facility toward the back of my hippocampus until I had a child of my own. In a discussion with an elderly patient of mine she strongly associates it with the World War 2 era, I'm thinking it is much older. This isn’t creepy so much as just complaining about King Edward’s wool tax, which gave a third of the cost to the King (“the Master”), a third to the church (“the Dame”), and the rest to the farmer, who could barely cover his expenses (the original version said “but none for the little boy who cries in the lane”). The last line has the most variation including: The lyrics describe how men would get so drunk, they would have to then pawn their own coats to get money to buy more drinks. Sign up here for our daily Thrillist email, and get your fix of the best in food/drink/fun. [1] Another theory sees the rhyme as connected to Mary, Queen of Scots (1542–1587), with "how does your garden grow" referring to her reign over her realm, "silver bells" referring to (Catholic) cathedral bells, "cockle shells" insinuating that her husband was not faithful to her, and "pretty maids all in a row" referring to her ladies-in-waiting – "The four Maries". The pretty maids all in a row were her ladies in waiting, the famous Four Marys. "Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary" is an English nursery rhyme. Check these two; now the tables have turned: This page was loaded Nov 4th 2020, 4:55 am GMT. The “paddy whack” is a derogatory term for literally hitting an Irish person (just as a “paddy wagon” referred to either the Irish cops driving it or the Irish drunks inside it), and the old man “rolling home” seems to allude to the use of caravans, or the old man using his money from those lucrative knickknack sales to get boozed up. Try These Imaginative Activities With Your Toddler, 10 Surprising Things Men Should Never Do During Labor, Pregnant Jessica Hart Announces Engagement To James Kirkham, Kailyn Lowry On Co-Parenting With Chris Lopez: We Don’t Talk, 15 Of The Worst Pregnancy Tests Out There, Learning To Ride A Bike: When You Should Remove Your Toddler's Training Wheels, Scheana Shay On Being Pregnant So Soon After Miscarriage: I'm 'Scared', Exclusive: Picky Eater Bootcamp Dietitians On Helping Toddlers Overcome Picky Eating Habits. According to a book by a former prison governor, this is just your standard children’s song referencing Wakefield Prison, a.k.a. It's actually a story about England’s sociopath Queen Mary I, who got the nickname “Bloody Mary” because she burned scores of Protestants at the stake (284 in all; there’s a Wikipedia page that lists each of them, if you’re truly morbid). Simply the World’s Most Interesting Travel Site. 'Pop' means to pawn something. What's more, many of these back stories are less than lovely, and point to dark seasons in the history of mankind, such as the Great Plague. And so this song we sing with our children, which has spawned many bath toys, actually tells the story of upper-class tradespeople hanging out at a fair and getting caught checking out a bath filled with naked ladies in it. It is speculated, the lyrics refer to King Olaf II's attacks on the bridge, which restored the throne to Aethelred the Unready. And so my garden grows.[1]. It is speculated that they paraded someone else's child as their own, to have a son who would be able to take the throne, securing Roman Catholic rule at the time. Fortunately, it isn't necessary to know the back story to the rhyme. Credit: Getty The Meaning Mary, Mary is a grisly nursery rhyme about Queen Mary I. So most historians think that this refers to the Norwegian King Olaf II (a.k.a. Silver bells and cockle shells were instruments of torture and the maiden was a device used to behead people. Serving up the hottest food trends and the inside scoop on restaurants worldwide. [1], Mary has also been identified with Mary I of England (1516–1558) with "How does your garden grow?" This seemingly unassuming rhyme contains some deep historic truths. [2], No proof has been found that the rhyme was known before the 18th century, while Mary I of England (Mary Tudor) and Mary, Queen of Scots (Mary Stuart), were contemporaries in the 16th century. While these are engaging interpretations, something important stands in the way of their verification. Another interpretation is that the rhyme could refer to Mary I, ‘Bloody Mary’. “Monster Mansion,” and the mulberry tree in its exercise yard used by women prisoners. Rather clever, but only about 40 Google hits (including those with "hell's" and "cockle shells"). Relatedly, 14th century fairs seem more edgy than I’d imagined. Scholars have suggested that the rhyme is about King James II of England and Mary of Modena, and their son (who, as it turns out, was not their son at all). Regarding the silver bells and the cockle shells, which are very often supposed to be instruments of tortures, the problem becomes evident through a google search. Despite describing something negative, the song sounds joyful and hopeful when sung by small children. With silver bells and cockleshells And pretty maids all in a row. Sing cuckolds all in a row.[1]. Children sing nursery rhymes all of the time, with mom and dad keen for them to learn the lyrics to the well-known melodies which colored their own childhoods. the Frozen snowman king) attacking and knocking down the London bridge in 1014, which gave the throne back to Æthelred the Unready, which is my second favorite king name after his successor, Sweyn Forkbeard. The 'nick-nacks' referred to in the lyrics were what the Irish used to try sell to try and get some money with to alleviate their state of poverty. The emotional impact this story is having on me is significant. Posted by Russ Cable on September 21, 2005, In Reply to: Hells bells and cockleshells posted by Smokey Stover on September 21, 2005. : : : I'm trying to find the origin of the phrase, "hells bells and cockleshells". They would go up the hill for their meetings and it is believed that the part about Jack falling down and breaking his crown, refers to the male character on which the rhyme was originally based literally falling and cracking his skull open. Sneezing was taken as a sure sign that you were about to die of it, and the last line “We all fall down” omits the word, “dead”! One theory is that it is religious allegory of Catholicism, with Mary being Mary, the mother of Jesus, bells representing the sanctus bells, the cockleshells the badges of the pilgrims to the shrine of Saint James in Spain (Santiago de Compostela) and pretty maids are nuns, but even within this strand of thought there are differences of opinion as to whether it is lament for the reinstatement of Catholicism or for its persecution. How does your garden grow? That version is warped from the original, which goes, “Hey, rub-a-dub, ho, rub-a-dub, three maids in a tub. Another interpretation is that the rhyme could refer to Mary I, ‘Bloody Mary’. The nursery rhyme "Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary" from which "Silver bells and cockleshells" comes is quite well known in the US so I don't think actually having encountered cockle in the wild would be a requirement for the "inventor" of this phrase though you may very well be right. So, to answer the obvious question: yes, this song is actually about a fake birth starting a religious war. Mary, Mary, quite contrary, This popular nursery rhyme from the 18th century is not about sheep at all! “Ring a Ring O’ Roses” is said to be a macabre parody on the horrors of the Great Plague. Specifically, it refers to a mulberry tree in the yard used by the female inmates. Naturally, being a high-powered investigative journalist, I scoured weird old British texts (courtesy of the Victorian-era British Society for Nursery Rhyme Reform), read through NPR radio transcripts, and combed through weird subreddits in an effort to uncover the hidden meaning behind a few of the most popular nursery rhymes. I’ve always been a little bit creeped out by this ditty about an old man playing “nick-nack” on various things owned by the song’s writer. And “pretty maids all in a row” is supposed to be about either offing Lady Jane Grey (a.k.a. Parents often teach their children classic nursery rhymes, but they would be surprised to learn the hidden meaning behind these traditional songs. How does your garden grow? ', this has ominous understones which are very much self-explanatory. Others claim the meaning was about torturing her victims. Most sources I’ve found believe “This Old Man” refers to the influx of Irish beggars going door to door in England after the famine, either to sell knickknacks or to literally play a rhythm called "nick-nacks" using spoons in hopes of getting some change. The cockle shells and silver bells are supposed to have been ornaments on a dress given to her by her first husband, the Dauphin of France. Thanks for any input. "Quite contrary" is said to be a reference to her unsuccessful attempt to reverse ecclesiastical changes effected by her father Henry VIII and her brother Edward VI. This nursery rhyme might creep some moms out a little, however, its meaning is slightly more benign than the others. Wait, why did I agree to do this story again? There are mothers who try change the closing lines of this nursery rhyme when they sing it to their tots. The cockle shells and silver bells are supposed to have been ornaments on a dress given to her by her first husband, the Dauphin of France. Mary was a devout Catholic and upon taking the throne on the death of her brother Edward VI, restored the Catholic faith to England, hence ‘Mary Mary quite contrary’. There are several interpretations of what people think the meaning of the poem was. We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. The ‘silver bells’ were a type of thumbscrew and the ‘cockle shells’ were also instruments of torture, used on Protestant martyrs to ‘persuade’ them to change faith.

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