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Nursery rhyme

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Nursery rhyme

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A nursery rhyme is a traditional song or poem taught to young children, originally in the nursery. Learning such verse assists in the development of vocabulary, and several examples deal with rudimentary counting skills. ("Eeny, meeny, miny, moe" is an example of a counting-out game.) In addition, specific actions, motions, or dances are often associated with particular songs.

"Hey Diddle Diddle" is a popular nursery rhyme. "Hey Diddle Diddle" is a popular nursery rhyme.

Many cultures (though not all; see below) feature children's songs and verses that are passed down by oral tradition from one generation to the next (either from parent to child, or from older children to younger children). In the English language, the term "nursery rhyme" generally refers to those of European origin, and the best known examples are English and originated in or since the 17th century. Their origins were possibly a form of oral political cartoon, from an era when free speach could get the speaker imprisoned.

Some nursery rhymes, however, are substantially older. "Sing a Song of Sixpence" exists in written records as far back as the Middle Ages. Arguably the most famous collection of nursery rhymes is that of Mother Goose. Some well known nursery rhymes originated in the United States, such as "Mary had a little lamb".

"Ring-Around-the-Rosie" (alternatively "Ring a Ring O'Roses") is popularly believed to be a metaphorical reference to the Great Plague of London, although this has been widely discredited, particularly as none of the "symptoms" described by the poem even remotely correlate to those of the Bubonic plague, and the first record of the rhyme's existence was not until 1881.

A credible interpretation of "Pop Goes the Weasel" is that it is about silk weavers taking their shuttle or bobbin (known as a "weasel"), to a pawnbrokers to obtain money for drinking. It is possible that the "eagle" mentioned in the song's third verse refers to The Eagle freehold pub along Shepherdess Walk in London, which was established as a music hall in 1825 and was rebuilt as a public house in 1901. This public house bears a plaque with this interpretation of the nursery rhyme and the pub's history. Alternatively, the term "weasel" might be Cockney rhyming slang for a coat ("weasel and stoat" = "coat"), and the coat itself was pawned.

An amusing and ironic accidental hoax involving the rhyme "Sing a Song of Sixpence" was perpetrated on the Urban Legends Reference Pages.

Scholars occasionally think they have "all" nursery rhymes written down, or know the last time that a rhyme was in use (some fall out of favor). However, as nursery rhymes are mainly an oral tradition, nursery rhymes will surface anew (see Bill Bryson's book Made in America : An Informal History of the English Language in the United States for an excellent example).

There are some indigenous peoples which consider music sacred, so that only elder men may sing songs, and the songs are taught during sacred rituals in adulthood. It is forbidden for women or children to sing. Hence, these cultures do not have these kinds of songs.

List of nursery rhymes

Alphabet song
"As I Was Going by Charing Cross"
"As I Was Going to St Ives"
"Baa, Baa, Black Sheep"
"Bye, baby bunting"
"Christmas is Coming"
"Ding Dong Bell"
"Doctor Foster"
"Five little speckled frogs"
"Froggy would a-wooing go"
"Georgie Porgie"
"Goosey Gander"
"Grand old Duke of York"
"Hey Diddle Diddle"
"Hickory Dickory Dock"
"Horsey Horsey"
"Hot Cross Buns"
"Humpty Dumpty"
"Hush Little Baby"
"I'm a Little Teapot"
"Itsy Bitsy Spider"
"Jack and Jill"
"Jack Be Nimble"
"Jack Sprat"
"Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree"
"Ladybird Ladybird"
"Little Bo Peep"
"Little Boy Blue"
"Little Jack Horner"
"Little Miss Muffet"
"Little Tommy Tucker"
"London Bridge is falling down"
"Lucy Locket"
"Mares eat oats"
"Mary Had a Little Lamb"
"Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary"
"Monday's Child"
"Nuts in May"
"Old King Cole"
"Old Mother Hubbard"
"One, Two, Buckle My Shoe"
"One, Two, Three, Four, Five"
"Oranges and Lemons"
"Pat A Cake, Pat A Cake Bakers Man"
"Pease Porridge Hot"
"Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater"
"Polly Put the Kettle On"
"Pop Goes the Weasel"
"Pussy Cat Pussy Cat"
"Rain Rain Go Away"
"Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross"
"Ring Around the Rosie" or"Ring a Ring O'Roses"
"Rock-a-bye Baby"
"Row, row, row the Boat"
"Rub A Dub Dub"
"See Saw Margery Daw"
"Simple Simon"
"Sing a Song of Sixpence"
"Star Light, Star Bright"
"Solomon Grundy"
"The Name Game"
"The Queen of Hearts"
"There Was A Crooked Man"
"There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly"
"There Was An Old Woman Who Lived In A Shoe"
"This Is The House That Jack Built"
"This Little Piggy"
"This Old Man"
"Three Blind Mice"
"Tinker, Tailor"
"Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son"
"Twinkle Twinkle Little Star"
"Two Little Dickie Birds"
"Wee Willie Winkie"
"What Are Little Boys Made Of?"
"Who Killed Cock Robin?"

Popular culture

Stand up comic Andrew Dice Clay has performed "vulgar" versions of old standards in his act. The humor was often based on shock value and abrupt resolutions which identified a more practical or realistic result. As an example, in Clay's version of "Jack and Jill", Jill is implied to be a prostitute:

Jack and Jill went up the hill,
Both with a buck and a quarter.
Jill came down with two-fifty.

Other rhymes Clay has modified are "Three Blind Mice", "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star", "The Little Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe", "Little Boy Blue", "Hickory Dickory Dock", and "Little Jack Horner".

Metal band, Korn's song "Shoots and Ladders" from their self-titled first album, Korn, consists almost entirely of nursery rhymes in its lyrics.

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