Real meaning behind some of your favourite nursery rhymes

You won't believe the real meaning behind some of your favourite nursery rhymes

After Vic Naidoo discovered the real story behind the much-loved ‘This Little Piggy’ nursery rhyme, we unearthed some other shocking stories disguised as children’s songs.

Pig cartoon

Twitter user @VaGyver recently shared a tweet that read: “When I was a little kid, I thought ‘This little pig went to market' meant it went shopping. However, some have interpreted this to mean that the pig is going to market for slaughter."


According to Sporcle, it isn’t too hard to spot the darker interpretation in this particular nursery rhyme. If the first pig went to the market to get slaughtered, then the “little piggy staying home” refers to a pig not yet ready to eat, and that must stay home to mature. The “little piggy having roast beef” is about fattening a pig up, while the fourth “piggy that gets none” is too small to go to the market. And perhaps most dark, that final little piggy is not singing “wee, wee, wee”, but rather crying in fright.

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This is not the first nursery rhyme to have a dark back story. In fact, there are many other popular nursery rhymes which have a rather gloomy story behind them.

'Ring Around The Rosie' is reportedly a song about the Black Death which dates back to medieval times. Sporcle adds that “ring-a-round the rosie” referred to a red circular rash common in some forms of plague. The posies would have represented the different flowers and herbs people carried to ward off disease. The “ashes” or “a-tishoo” and falling down was supposed to mimic sneezing and eventually dying from the disease.

Another creepy nursery rhyme is ‘Mary, Mary Quite Contrary’. The rhyme is one of many inspired by Queen Mary I. It has been reported that Mary was a big fan of executing people. Legend has it that the ‘silver bells’ and ‘cockleshells’ refer to Mary’s preferred instruments of torture, while ‘pretty maids’ makes reference to the guillotine (nicknamed at the time as The Maiden). 

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Finally, ‘Pop Goes The Weasel’ tells the story of a poor man that would pawn his suit earlier on in the week to earn some extra money. He would then take it back temporarily on Sunday morning to wear for church. Written in cockney slang, the nursery rhyme is a commemoration of England’s poverty which dates back to the mid 19th century.

Do you know of a nursery rhyme that tells a creepy story that we haven’t covered? Let Vic know in the comments section below.

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