This Weeks Caught in the Wild

Owl beer!
Owl beer for our owl-eared listeners!

Our owl-eared listeners this week have been good at finding new subjects for me to pounce upon.

Roho has this to say about “A-Tisket, A-Tasket”: “It’s raining / It’s pouring / The old man / Is snoring.”

*head explodes*

Amazing. I’d never realized the two rhymes had the same tune. Since it never turned up during my research of “A-Tisket, A-Tasket”, apparently many others missed the same connection.

It looks like “A-Tisket, A-Tasket” predates “It’s Raining, It’s Pouring”. While “Tisket” is documented in the 1800s, “It’s Raining” isn’t documented until the 20th century. Apparently, “It’s Raining” was noted in 1939 by Charles Ives… yes, that Charles Ives.

There’s enough material about “It’s Raining, It’s Pouring” to make a whole article, so I’ll put it on the to-do list. Thanks, Roho!

About “Ring a Ring o’ Roses”, Mandydax notes: “I think the tune that we’re familiar with is a common taunting sing-song melody as well. Like ‘Nana nana boo-boo, stick your head in doo-doo.'”

Indeed! In fact, I think it was the ‘nana nana boo-boo’ thing that initally got me thinking about “Ring a Ring o’ Roses” in the first place, but I forgot about it once I started writing things down. Good catch!

I don’t know much more about ‘nana nana boo-boo’ in terms of history, mostly because it’s hard to Google nonsense words that have no commonly agreed spelling. Also, putting “stick your head in doo-doo” into the IMDB quote search engine disappointingly turns up only an episode of the Bernie Mac Show. I’ll keep my ears open on this one, though.

Mandydax also says, “I wonder about the ‘Shave and a haircut two bits’ thing. I’ve seen it around from Looney Tunes to a recent episode of Big Bang Theory. I have no idea where its origins lie.”

This one is also already on the to-do list for the blog. In fact, it’s one of the first things that went on the list. The song has a long and interesting history, so I just need to set aside some time to write it all down.

The lyrics “shave and a haircut, two bits” basically mean that a shave and a haircut costs fifty cents. (“Two bits” is old American slang for two quarters term for two 1/8 dollars, aka the equivalent of 25 cents. [Edited thanks to corrections from Mandydax and Kaji in the comments.]) The lyrics are sometimes altered to “six bits” ($1.50) or “five bob” (English slang for five shillings).

I’ll deliver the rest later. *wink*

Ring a Ring o’ Roses

My previous post about “A-Tisket, A-Tasket” got me thinking about this scene from The Goonies (1985). The key part of the clip starts at about 1:08:

Francis Fratelli: Get the rope here. Slothy, Slothy, jump rope Slothy.

Jake Fratelli: What do you mean jump rope?

Francis Fratelli, Jake Fratelli: Jump rope! Jump rope.


Francis Fratelli, Jake Fratelli: Ring around the rosie, pocket full of posies…

The same children’s rhyme also shows up (sans song) in The Wizard of Oz (1939) (at about 1:47 in this clip): “Ring around the rosie, a pocket full of spears!”

Like “A-Tisket, A-Tasket”, if you grew up in the English-speaking world, you are probably familiar with “Ring Around the Rosie”. The version I learned goes:

Ring around the rosie,
Pocket full of posies,
Ashes, ashes,
We all fall down.

…followed by everyone in the room falling on their rumps. (That was hi-lairious to me at a certain young age.)

I remember watching an episode of “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” (with Jack Palance!) sometime in the mid-1980’s, and learning that this seemingly innocent children’s rhyme was apparently some sort of code for the horrors of the bubonic plague. “Rosie” referred to the boils, the posies referred to flowers placed on coffins, falling down referred to death… you know, just exactly the dark, fascinating stuff that sticks in a nerdy kid’s mind.

I remember that episode after all these years.

Too bad it’s bullshit.

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