Sing a Song of Sixpence. Reply to T.S.D.

Having come from were she shows her designs around nursery rhymes, the number 24 comes up again in a rhyme called Captain Duck. May be incidental, may be not!
A comment on the Straight Dope Staff report on ‘Sing a song of sixpence…’; S.D. say ‘‘This includes the “piracy” origin of “Sing a Song of Sixpence” – it is totally bogus, although quite amusing’’. If I have got his/her expression of context right, the evolution of ‘tales’ and ‘rhymes’ doesn’t devalue the wealth of such rhymes, and infact underlines their historic value. I come from the point of view that many ‘rhymes’ and ‘tales’ cultural/artistic values are as equal a study as the study of their origins: given example, there exist in many ‘rhymes’ and ‘tales’, a dialogue between nature/natural order and imposed cultural order, in this case blackbirds and Kings. That doesn’t make any evolution of ‘rhymes’ in any way ‘‘bogus’’ although I would say ‘‘amusing’’ but in the valuable sence. Oh while I’m valuing things, I loved the rest of the info on the Rhyme ‘Sing a Song of Sixpence’:this stuff Interests me; thank you.

Welcome to The Straight Dope Message Boards, Vincent, glad to have you with us. And it’s a very thought-provoking first post! We hope to see more from you!

When you start a thread, it’s helpful if you provide a link to the column that you’re commenting on… keeps us all on the same page, avoids redundant comments, etc. In this case, it’s the origin of ‘Sing a Song of Sixpence’ No biggie, you’ll know for next time.

I do think there’s a difference between an analysis (noting that fairy tales and nursery rhymes are often about nature/culture, say) and a pseudo-history (claiming a bogus historical origin for a tale or rhyme.) The one is legit analysis, the other is phony history.

Are you trying to say that you believe the rhyme does have its origins in piracy, Vincent? If so, you are mistaken. This myth came from a joke website on the Urban Legends Reference Pages ( ), dated 1999. I don’t think you can really defend this as “the evolution of ‘tales’ and ‘rhymes’”.

I do wish Snopes would put the word out more widely about their “TRoLL” pages, though.

No. I think somthing got lost in the translation. I took ‘piracy’ to be simply a discriptive term not a literal one: I hadn’t seen the ‘’ site and was going off the info I had found on this site. I’m not sure whether the perjoritive terms were aimed at ‘’ or the idea of value and development of ‘rhymes’.
My position is still that perjoritive terms are not appropiate to ‘rhymes’ simply because they have changed/evolved through use; and that changes indicate a new or adapted use. E.G., ‘fairytales’ have and origin as ‘tavern/pub’ tales with political and adult themes (and may well existed as another form of oral history before that). Because they’re changed/evolved into ‘fairytales’, doesn’t negate study of their pedagogic content: cautionary tales to children about ‘good’ and ‘bad’ behaviour and ‘conquence’; some very disturbing content compared to the censored versions we have at present. Further, because ‘Sing a song of sixpence’ has changed is ‘bad boys’ to ‘black birds’ doesn’t, just the focus of who the rhyme is aimed. Any more on the number 24 in rhymes, I dont want to get stuck in one debate. Thanks

Apoligies for the nonsensical sintax of ‘bad boys’ an ‘blackbirds’, I posted with checking through. I hope you can muddle through the meaning. No biggy eh!