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63 votes

How do we know Humpty Dumpty was an egg?

Humpty Dumpty almost certainly wasn't an egg at conception Humpty Dumpty is over 200 years old, originating in the 1700s. Our first clue lies in the original phrasing of the poem; the eponymous ...
Plumbing for Ankit's user avatar
27 votes

How did the man going from/coming to St Ives have seven wives?

Back when the rhyme was first created wife also commonly meant woman. A woman considered without reference to marital status, and related senses. — "wife, n." OED Online. Oxford University Press,...
Matt Ellen's user avatar
22 votes
Accepted

Meaning/significance of "All the King's horses" in the Humpty Dumpty nursery rhyme?

The phrase "The King's Horse" is still in use today and is well understood. It refers to the mounted royal bodyguard, the Guards Regiments. There are a number of Guards Regiments, hence the ...
Chenmunka's user avatar
  • 2,347
21 votes

How did the man going from/coming to St Ives have seven wives?

Because the poem was never intended to be realistic. It's a simple nursery rhyme, designed to amuse children and to have an unexpected answer. It's not a complex piece of literature with much thought ...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
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17 votes

Why did "they" go to sea in a sieve?

It is likely that at root the reference goes back to the plays of Aristophanes where it is said of Simonedes that he's grown so old and sordid, he'd put to sea upon a sieve for money. Where the ...
Spagirl's user avatar
  • 19.1k
16 votes
Accepted

What is Jack's crown?

The most likely answer, courtesy of Merriam-Webster: : the highest part: such as a : the topmost part of the skull or head Other possible interpretations according to Albert Jack's Pop ...
Sean Duggan's user avatar
  • 10.8k
15 votes

What is Jack's crown?

It means his head. See definition 2.1 of "crown" at Oxford Dictionaries: The top part of a person's head or a hat: ‘his hair was swept straight back over his crown’ This is confirmed when you ...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
  • 73.8k
13 votes
Accepted

Origin and significance of E-I-E-I-O in the Old MacDonald song

As with any folk song, the origins of the lyrics can be a bit murky, but given transcriptions collected by folklorists in the early part of the twentieth century of this or related songs, we see that ...
D. A. Hosek's user avatar
  • 3,185
13 votes
Accepted

Hot Cross Bun Paradox

No paradox involved. Hot cross buns were traditionally consumed at the end of Lent, and the nursery rhyme derives from the cries of street vendors. For example: Hot cross buns, hot cross buns; One a ...
Mick's user avatar
  • 1,339
11 votes
Accepted

Why is "Oranges and Lemons" supposed to describe child sacrifice?

TL;DR: There is no hidden meaning in ‘Oranges and Lemons’. Tommy Thumb’s Song Book The problem with all the theories about a hidden meaning in ‘Oranges and Lemons’ is that the earliest printed ...
Gareth Rees's user avatar
  • 58.2k
11 votes
Accepted

Is the nursery rhyme Jack and Jill based on real life events?

I found several different possibilities. Here are the four I found most helpful. It is nonsense and should not be taken so seriously The rhyme has traditionally been seen as a nonsense verse, ...
Matrim Cauthon's user avatar
10 votes

How many were going to St. Ives?

Rand al'Thor makes the valid comment that as with many nursery rhymes it doesn't have an author. The earliest known published version of it comes from a manuscript dated to around 1730 , though as it ...
Beastly Gerbil's user avatar
7 votes
Accepted

How do we know Humpty Dumpty was an egg?

I am going to contradict the other answer. Humpty Dumpty may not have been an egg at conception, but he was certainly one by 1835, thirty years before Lewis Carroll wrote Alice in Wonderland. There ...
Peter Shor's user avatar
  • 12.7k
5 votes

Meaning/significance of "All the King's horses" in the Humpty Dumpty nursery rhyme?

The modern version of the rhyme is not original The earliest known version was published in Samuel Arnold's Juvenile Amusements in 1797 with the lyrics: Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had ...
Dale M's user avatar
  • 234
4 votes

What is Jack's crown?

In addition to "crown=head" as noted, in Chris Roberts's excellent book Heavy Words Lightly Thrown, he posits: One saucy explanation of this rhyme is that "up the hill to fetch a pail of water" is ...
Lauren-Clear-Monica-Ipsum's user avatar
3 votes

What do you call a break in rhyming in the middle of a book / poem for dramatic effect?

It is definitely a literary device. The only name I can find for it is a "deviation" See the paper "Internal and External Deviation in Poetry" by Samuel R. Levin, which says: Thus,...
Peter Shor's user avatar
  • 12.7k
2 votes

Meaning/significance of "All the King's horses" in the Humpty Dumpty nursery rhyme?

One interpretation of the nursery rhyme is that Humpty Dumpty was a cannon, rather than an egg (which the first reference for the egg imagery was apparently in Lewis Carol's Through the Looking Glass)....
MT0's user avatar
  • 129
2 votes

What does "his name is my name too" mean in "John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt"?

The Wikipedia article traces a likely origin to songs by American immigrants about the difficulty of getting people to recognize and properly pronounce their native names. While the origins of the ...
Sean Duggan's user avatar
  • 10.8k

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