Victuals and Drink

There was an old woman, and what do you think?
She lived upon nothing but victuals and drink;
Victuals and drink were the chief of her diet,
And yet this old woman could never be quiet.

We’re nearing the end of the alphabet and finally we come to a good old obnoxious drunk. In this case, I kind of like that the subject is a woman. Too many women in these rhymes are meek and weak. Let’s have ourselves a ruddy-faced, sailor-mouthed, falling down, cackling old alcoholic hag for a change. Well, probably still not the best rhyme for children, but is it really any worse than the extremely popular ones that have girls who are afraid of spiders and must take the blame for their brothers and can be bought and sold? I think not!

Verdict: Can we turn this into a bar song to sing in unison next time we’re all drunk together? Continue reading →

Up Hill and Down Dale

Up hill and down dale,
Butter is made in every vale;
And if Nancy Cook
Is a good girl,
She shall have a spouse,
And make butter anon,
Before her old grandmother
Grows a young man.

If Nancy is a good girl, she’ll have a spouse. Oh Nancy, be bad. Be very, very bad. Or at least be who you are and don’t worry about social pressure to get married. Figure out how to differentiate your butter from everyone else’s, start a small business selling your artisanal butter, and support yourself without having to worry about a husband. Continue reading →

Three Sons

There was an old woman had three sons,
Jerry and James and John,
Jerry was hanged, James was drowned,
John was lost and never was found;
And there was an end of her three sons,
Jerry and James and John!

Well, that’s damn depressing. I think I have a pretty good idea why this one never made it into any of my children’s books. I guess this is reality for some families, but yikes, it’s a harsh tale for little ears. Continue reading →

Sulky Sue

Here’s Sulky Sue,
What shall we do?
Turn her face to the wall
Till she comes to.

Children (and adults) should be punished appropriately for their bad behavior. If this little girl was sulking around, I see nothing wrong with making her stand against the wall until she straightens herself. No one else should have to be around her if she’s acting like a brat. Finally Mother Goose acknowledges that some actions have consequences! Although it hasn’t gone unnoticed that the character in this rhyme is a girl…

Verdict: That old punishment of making a kid write something out 100 times? Make the especially bratty ones write this rhyme. Continue reading →

Robin and Richard

Robin and Richard were two pretty men,
They lay in bed till the clock struck ten;
Then up starts Robin and looks at the sky,
“Oh, brother Richard, the sun’s very high!
You go before, with the bottle and bag,
And I will come after on little Jack Nag.”

After all the sludge we’ve gone through in this blog challenge, how refreshing to find a progressive nursery rhyme and finally be able to applaud Mother Goose. Of course, this rhyme never made it into my children’s books. You can bet that “brother” Richard is not Robin’s brother. And the “bottle and bag” seems like a bottle in a bag and these two lovers are about to engage in some day drinking. Sunday Funday!

Verdict: Write this rhyme on the outside of the next paper bag you use to bring your booze to the park and enjoy! Continue reading →

Quarrel

My little old man and I fell out;
I’ll tell you what ’twas all about,–
I had money and he had none,
And that’s the way the noise begun.

Love of money is the root of all evil, right? No, I’m not copping out with a cliché. Not when this rhyme brings up such an interesting question: What do children owe their parents for their upbringing? What does any family members owe another? It must be quite awkward when one family member becomes incredibly rich. But there are so many factors at play. Did the parents do their best at raising the child well or were they horrible? Are the other family members drug addicts and drunks, or have they simply fallen on hard times? Did he become rich through hard work or a stroke of luck, like winning the lottery? Maybe none of this matters at all, but the people in the rhyme are certainly not anomalies. Unlike the coffee and tea issue, this one is worth discussing. Continue reading →

Pumpkin Eater

Peter, Peter, pumpkin-eater,
Had a wife and couldn’t keep her;
He put her in a pumpkin shell,
And there he kept her very well.

So…I don’t think it’s unreasonable for me to think that if he couldn’t keep her and had to lock her away in a pumpkin shell, there is something terribly wrong with this relationship. Let’s just say it – this is kidnapping! How on earth can this be one of the most common Mother Goose rhymes? It’s cute, I suppose, to see a little woman living inside a pumpkin—I mean, I loved the story of Thumbelina when I was little—but it seems clear that this woman wants out of this relationship. The lack of punishment or any sort of negative consequences for this outrageous and illegal behavior is disturbing. Continue reading →

Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe

There was an old woman who lived in a shoe, 
She had so many children she didn’t know what to do 
She gave them some broth, without any bread, 
She whipped them all round, and sent them to bed. 

Whoa, I just had a flashback to the Octamom story. Someone probably needs to call child protective services on this lady because broth is not a sufficient dinner and it sounds like there is some physical abuse happening here. Was this rhyme meant as a warning piece to bad children so that they would appreciate how good they had it? This is one of the best known rhymes, and I can’t think of any other benefit to including it in so many Mother Goose collections.

Verdict: Write this rhyme on a piece of paper and make the old woman eat it for her dinner. I wouldn’t even be nice enough to give her some broth to wash it down with. Continue reading →

Nievie, Nievie, Nicknack

Nievie, nievie, nicknack,
Which hand will ye tak’?
Tak’ the right, or tak’ the wrang,
I’ll beguile ye, if I can.

Ah, the old shell game or a round of three card monte. Scammers have always been out there and will always be. The beggar child asking you to buy a gallon of milk, the millionaire Nigerian prince who needs you to rescue him, the woman in town for a business conference who has run out of gasoline, the Craiglist overpayment and refund, the IRS calling to tell you that you have a warrant out for your arrest, and the current favorite – fake news. You’ve got to have your wits about you. Did you know there is a Foundation for Critical Thinking? There are also tons of logic puzzles, lateral thinking puzzles, brainteasers, and other resources out there that encourage you to exercise your brain in new ways. Investing five minutes a day is time well spent.

Verdict: Write this rhyme on a deck of blank playing cards and use it to teach a lesson to people gullible enough to still fall for these scams. Continue reading →

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary

Mary, Mary, quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
Silver bells and cockle-shells,
And pretty maids all of a row.

On the surface, this rhyme is innocuous, inoffensive (or is it?). Flowers are lovely and it sounds like Mary might have some serious gardening skills, which is not to be scoffed at. It would be better if she were growing beets and carrots and peas, learning how to provide for herself, but flowers do make the world lovely. However, I have to wonder why Mother Goose describes Mary as contrary without offering any evidence to support this characterization. Given Mother Goose’s bad track record when it comes to portraying women, I wonder if she doesn’t like that Mary is working outside, doing something on her own, instead of sitting around, taking orders and taking care of the house and children. Continue reading →