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Pop Goes the Weasel: The Secret Meanings of Nursery Rhymes
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Pop Goes the Weasel: The Secret Meanings of Nursery Rhymes

3.33 of 5 stars 3.33  ·  rating details  ·  203 ratings  ·  47 reviews
From the international bestselling author of Red Herrings and White Elephants—a curious guide to the hidden histories of classic nursery rhymes.

Who was Mary Quite Contrary, or Georgie Porgie? How could Hey Diddle Diddle offer an essential astronomy lesson? Do Jack and Jill actually represent the execution of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette? And if Ring Around the Rosie isn’
Paperback, 272 pages
Published September 29th 2009 by Perigee Trade (first published August 28th 2008)
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Steven Peterson
What a concept! A book that deconstructs classic nursery rhymes!

Some examples to illustrate:

"Baa, baa black sheep,
Have you any wool?
Yes sir, yes sir,
Three bags full.
One for the master,
One for the dame,
And one for the little boy
Who lives down the lane."

Edward Longshanks--Edward I. He taxed wool to fund his campaigns and other foreign adventures. 1/3 of the price of each sack went to the king (master), 1/3 to the church (the dame), and none to the actual shepherd (the little boy).

I used to think
Keith Blodgett
I'm done... I didn't finish but I'm done. I used to feel guilty not finishing books but I've decided that I'm not obligated to slog through books I'm just not enjoying.

Pop Goes the Weasel is supposed to contain the 'secret meaning' behind nursery rhymes. Mostly it's dry and boring British history from centuries ago. For every salacious tidbit of knowledge you're drowned in dates and names you really won't remember and couldn't care less about.

I don't know if the author dug deep to find the most
Choi Tang
Very interesting! If I had known the meanings/origins of my childhood chants during my childhood I probably would never have had any faith in humanity.
This books gives an interesting insight into the stories behind many classic Nursery Rhymes. Jack proposes several theories behind each story in a brief and simple manor - although he does explain these are theories only as we may never know the truth, and with some of the rhymes he explains serval different ideas to how the rhymes came about. However I do somewhat think he is trying to over think these rhymes and they may have no reference at all to what he is pinning them on.

This is a great b
I was writing the draft for my second novel and I was looking around for some information, when I found this book in Kinokuniya Grand Indonesia. I picked it up, not only because I thought it might be useful, but also because it looked so interesting.

Turned out that I didn't find much to use in my novel, but I got to know a lot of exciting stories behind seemingly innocent nursery rhymes and anthems, from London Bridge Is Falling to The Star-Spangled Banner. Jack wittily provided the best, most-c
This book was extremely interesting. It tracks down, as best as they can, the historical origins of nursery rhymes. Sometimes more than one origin is included because they aren't sure which is the real one. Many rhymes are included (most of the ones that I know plus many more besides), as well as several songs, like the Hokey Pokey and Good King Wenceslas. Very interesting and fun to read. I've talked about several of the origins with my children, because we've learned about many of the people t ...more
Allegra Johnson
I picked this up on a whim at a discount bookstore and I'm so glad I did. It's really fascinating to discover the meanings of nursery rhymes that I remember from childhood. I found the histories fascinating and dug out my son's nursery rhyme book to compare. Lots of fun for history buffs.
Amanda Mastran
A fun read if you like quirky history and tales of dark deeds. Jack shares different explanations for the origins of English nursery rhymes, some of which are fact, but many a combination of history and myth.
As entertaining as it is, the book has a few downfalls. One being that if you lack a basic understanding of English history you could very easily become lost amongst all the Marys, Elizabeths, Richards, and Henrys. The fact that the rhymes are ordered alphabetically, rather than in grouping
For what was there, it was a pretty interesting book. In my opinion, the author got a little melodramatic at times, "And they are important, in my view, because many of them tell the true tale of some of history's darkest or most tragic events." From there, he goes on to do quite a bit of waffling providing 2 or 3 possible origins for most of the rhymes without providing an expert opinion on which is the most likely. Nevertheless, the stories were short and engaging and sometimes surprising. And ...more
I just read about the nursery rhymes that I was familiar with. The origins of the rhymes are mostly theories drawn from history. Sometimes there are several theories listed for the origin of one rhyme.

Maybe it's because I'm not as familiar with British history, but I feel like all the theories seem to blend together. I have been reading this book off and on the past year and I wouldn't be able to tell someone the origin theories to each nursery rhyme off the top of my head. If someone asked me
Helen Fitchett
A bit monotonous in places. Also Albert Jack seemed to use a lot of guess work and assumptions
Charisa Flaherty
This book wax ok, not really good or bad. I didn't know more than half of the nursery rhymes in this so didn't really care.
Worth browsing or reading a bit at a time. Draws a laugh occasionally. Sometimes is a bit heavy on the historical context from which the rhyme is thought to have emerged.
This was an interesting little book. It's a collection of histories of common nursery rhymes. The author organized it in alphabetical order by the nursery rhyme and then describes the history of the rhyme. Many of them go back to Tudor England. The author is English so he uses the English versions of the rhymes, which are a little different than the versions Americans know. It's a very light read, in spite of the educational aspect. I did find myself running to wikipedia a few times to look up t ...more
Feb 10, 2014 Rhonda rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2014
I loved reading the history behind well known nursery rhymes.
*Queen Diva*
This was a very interesting book. Although I hadn't heard of many of the nursery rhymes presented by Jack, it was fun to read possible historical stories tied to them. The only thing I didn't like is Jack tossed aside theories simply because the time period the theory was about didn't match up with the year the nursery rhyme had first been written down. Just because they don't match up doesn't mean that long before it was written down it wasn't recited. That's just my opinion though.

Despite tha
Remarkably compelling bathroom reading (by which I mean, of course, to read while brushing your teeth), this book provides not just an awful lot of "did you know..."s, but also a surprisingly in-depth look at British history (especially of Henry VIII and Bonnie Prince Charlie, about whom most rhymes seem to be composed). The Britishness may be its only downfall, because some of the rhymes are very different from the ones we Americans (i.e. I myself) recall.
Organised alphabetically by name of nursery rhyme it makes it easy to read this book from beginning to end or just read the ones which interest you. Not a definitve guide but lots of speculation and possibilities as to the meanings of the nursery rhymes. Some were more tenuous than others based on particular phrases. If I ever come across a nursery rhyme section in a pub quiz I'll be set.
I suspected that this was going to be rather light-weight. I could have gotten the same results from Google or Wikipedia. Pretty unsatisfying. (Also: in most cases, the British versions of the rhymes are used, which is fine, but a discussion of how the British and American versions differ - and why - could have been interesting and fruitful. So that was a missed opportunity.)
Whitney Garrett
This book started out slow, but the further I got in the book the more nursery rhymes I recognized and the more interesting it became. Given that the author is British, there were many nursery rhymes unfamiliar to me. There were also a few I was familiar with, but are obviously slightly different in America. It would have been nice to see some of these differences addressed.
Amanda Griggs
An interesting look into the way nursery rhymes were used throughout history to tell events that needed to remain unspoken at the time- though I would have liked a bit more historical background on some of those events, and maybe combined rhymes that spoke of the same events/people instead of going in a strictly alphabetical manner.
I really enjoyed this book - it could do with some better editing in places (there were unfortunately a few times where I had to re-read a sentence or two in order for me to be sure of what I was reading), and the level of interpretation varied wildly from rhyme to rhyme but it was really interesting.
Very interesting, but written by a Brit, so some of the lyrics & rhymes are different from what we say in the US. It would be interesting for him to look at how things change when they cross the pond (he does this with a few things, like Yankee Doodle, but not enough.)
Somewhat Interesting, but filled with a ton of British nursery rhymes I'd never heard of before. Also the author makes it clear that there is no way to know for sure the meaning of any of these rhymes - he just gives possibilities and tells you which is his favorite.
Loved this book. Easy to dive in and out, especially good to revisit during dinner parties!

This met my need to continually wonder about the origins of such things- quite frightening how these seemingly innocent rhymes have such dark meanings!

Highly recommended
An interesting anthology of explanations behind not only nursery rhymes, but traditional songs and anthems, too. It makes you really think about all of the songs you have grown up with and what they really mean, for they are rarely what they appear to be.
My God, if it weren't for all of these wars and conspiracies we wouldn't have had any nursery rhymes! I found the book enjoyable, humorous, and food for thought. "The Star-Spangled Banner" will never be the same.
Helen Mears
A good, fun book. Some interesting ideas as to the origins of nursery rhymes but Jack, probably rightly, keeps an open mind as to which is the correct one. Who knew 'I Saw Three Ships' was so very old???
Alexia Gordon
The dark history behind cheerful ditties. The author's (slightly warped) sense of humor shines through and his tone makes the book read more like a letter from a friend than a dry reference book.
Lindsay Goto
While it's cute, it's not a book that I could read in one sitting. There's a lot of information being thrown around in a somewhat encyclopedic manner. Still, it was entertaining.
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Albert Jack, pen name for Graham Willmott, is an international best-selling author and historian. He is an expert in explaining the unexplained and has appeared on live television shows and has made thousands of radio appearances worldwide.
More about Albert Jack...
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