Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Hold the Onions

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall
All the King's horses and all the King's men
Couldn't put Humpty together again

Ok, I was tempted to blog about the suggested alteration to this classic nursery rhyme from 1810 but, as you can see, it's already been done and, anyway, it's probably just a beat up and, anyway, I really don't care that much because we've been down this road before and we've all got annoyed about it - perhaps even angry - and we're probably mostly over the ridiculousness of these acts of stupidity and the ludicrousness of these crimes of absurdity.

After all, are kids really going to be offended, scared or saddened by some dimwit (and clearly fictional and largely comical if we can make a judgement from the picture above) egg taking a tumble off a wall and smashing his protective shell into smithereens, and thereafter dying a horrible death while being picked over by the King's four and twenty blackbirds (ok, that's a different nursery rhyme but I'm imagining a Tarantino or Altman-esque screenplay where nursery rhyme characters' lives intersect)?

I mean, there's even a moral here: kids, don't climb shit cos it's dangerous. Eggs are, after all, things to be eaten (and that's apart from their very important role of providing a cosy, gestational home for foetuses). I personally like mine fried with a side of bacon and mushrooms and liberally seasoned with pepper. Eggs, not foetuses. Preferably on thick, heavy, European style toast if it's available. And I'll sip a flat white while I'm about it thanks very much waitress and do that walk as you head back to the kitchen that's the girl.

But it got me thinking about nursery rhymes in general. Many of them revolve around death, injury or violence. Let's look at Jack n Jill. Two stupid kids climbing shit, falling over and cracking their skulls open. Ring a Ring a Rosy is about dying horrifically from the Black Death. Goosey Goosey Gander? A guy gets thrown down the stairs for not saying his prayers. I suspect Perseus and Boogey could entertain us with a grandiloquent discussion about the merits of this one. A baby crashes to its presumed death in Rockabye Baby. And then there are the sudden beheadings in Oranges and Lemons.

This all occurred to me as I recited nursery rhymes to my son in attempt to get him to sleep last night. No wonder he has nightmares.


Melba said...

Great post Bob. And what about fairytales where the only good mother is a dead one, and children get eaten by witches, roasted and boiled and served with sauce and their bones picked over? Evil stepmothers (what other kind is there?) are horrible and mean and try to kill or lose children, and don't feed them enough; food is witheld, food is used to lure (gingerbread house) and to fatten before slaughter. Strangely, often cooks are bad people too, always female and always punitive and fat.

Humans love stories, we really do. These must be verbal versions of the horror flicks that do so well in cinemas, and the destructo kill 'em computer games that even grown men love to play?

I've been thinking about this stuff recently. It's interesting. I reckon it goes to the archetype stuff that Jung talked about.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

Ring a Ring a Rosy is about dying horrifically from the Black Death.

That's a myth, Bob.

There's no evidence of this rhyme before the 19th century.

Good post, though.

Perseus said...

I've always liked this one...

Little Polly Flinders
Sat among the cinders,
Warming her pretty little toes.

Mother came and caught her,
And whipped her little daughter
For spoiling her nice new clothes.


Not as gruesome, but somehting about the mother with a whip used to terrify me.

Mr E Discharge said...

The scariest part of this is that Mr & Mrs Dumpty were able to name thier child "Humpty" in the first place.

What were they thinking?

Why didn't the authorities intervene?

Did he fall or did he jump?

If they'd named him Kevin this whole tragic episdode could have been avoided.

kitten said...

Roald Dahl's Revolting Rhymes manages to put an even more gruesome twist on the standard fairy tales, but is also very funny.

Alex said...

Why do people come to the conclusion that Humpty is an egg?

squib said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lewd Bob said...

I guess things were pretty depressing in the bad old days, Melba, when these things were written.

The old woman who lives in a shoe also whips her kids.

Thanks for the 'heads up' as they say in corporate circles, Ramon. I've been dining out on that one for years.

Good point Alex. There's certainly no reference to eggs. It's all about the accompanying graphic I suppose.

Agreed Mr E. It's like people called David Davidson. Or Mike Hunt.

Kitten, Roald Dahl is responsible for me thinking that every short story was supposed to have a twist in it. God, was I disappointed when I first read Raymond Carver and the stories kind of petered out.

squib said...

I reckon it goes to the archetype stuff that Jung talked about.

I'd be more inclined to go with Walter Ong on this and the whole violence thing going hand in hand with the oral tradition. I love Ong

Why do people come to the conclusion that Humpty is an egg?

Ricky Gervais mentions this in one of his routines and also, why did they send an army of men and horses to fix an egg? Cos that's not really helpful under the circumstances

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

Quite so, Squib.

An army of spin-doctors would have been much more useful.

"I can confirm Mr Dumpty is currently in hospital with life threatening injuries.

"I think speculation that the accident happened as part of some bizzarre sex act gone wrong is premature."

squib said...

"I think speculation that the accident happened as part of some bizzarre sex act gone wrong is premature."

God, Ramon! I'm now picturing an egg doing it. That is just SO wrong

Alex said...

I had imagined Humpty to be a nobleman or high ranking military person who had fallen off a high wall (a castle maybe) and splattered themselves on the rocks bellow.

Maybe my imagination just wasn't creative enough as a child.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

Really Squib?

How about we throw Catherine Deveny into the mix.

squib said...

I just saw her name in relation to the Athiest website attacks

Lewd Bob said...

Perhaps, Alex, it's about the "couldn't put Humpty together again" line. People don't generally come apart as a result of a fall, although I'm sure it's not unprecedented.

I guess Humpty could've been a coffee cup.

Puss In Boots said...

Can I ask a completely unrelated question?

When did Australians start using "jail" instead of "gaol"?

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

Yesterday, Puss.

Around 8 in the morning.

Didn't you get the memo?

Puss In Boots said...

Thanks Ramon. That clears that up.

I was training someone at work (a lot younger than me) and I wrote "gaol". They asked what the word was. I looked at them like they were a moron and explained it was the Australian equivalent of "jail". They said they'd never seen it before. I went to the online news to illustrate my point and all references to prison said "jail" and not "gaol". I thought it was rather odd the American usage had slipped in without me even noticing it.

Alex said...

Bob, I think that if someone's body was broken badly enough 'putting them back together' wouldn't be an entirely inappropriate turn of phrase. As you said though, Humpty really could have been anything. Anything that breaks when dropped from sufficient height.

But while people are asking completely unrelated questions: When a person from a charity group approaches you on the street, is it more polite to let them make their pitch in full or cut them off early and save them the effort. I feel rude doing either.

Lewd Bob said...

Fair enough Alex, I take my nursery rhymes far too literally.

Puss, I suspect we've been using 'jail' for nigh on a hundred years.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

Cut them off early, Alex.

If it makes you feel any better, a polite "fuck off, cunt" usually prevents any follow up queries.

Puss In Boots said...

I don't know about that, Bob. I was taught to use gaol at both primary and high school. And I'm not even 30 yet.

wari lasi said...

Ramon's right Alex. If you give them any quarter at all they'll go on for ever. They have no right to walk up unsolicited to you in the street. Same for religious fuckwits. We were besieged by Indian (I think) guys in Bangkok walking up and saying, "How I know your mother name?" The reuired response is, "Fuck off, idiot"

squib said...

I've always used 'jail' and I'm 35. 'Gaol' has always meant a historic jail to me, you know, one with dodgy looking mannequins wearing pyjamas with arrows

Perseus said...

I'm really really really late 30's, and I've always spelt it as 'jail'.

'Gaol' was where Ned Kelly went in the 1800's.

wari lasi said...

OK, I'm 45 and it's always been jail to me.

And Perseus, you need to get your arse to Thailand. You'll be married in minutes.

Puss In Boots said...

Weird. I have no explanation for this.

Lewd Bob said...

I think Puss went to school in 1870s Glenrowan.

WitchOne said...

Were you educated by the Amish perhaps Puss? They seem to like the quaint things in life, maybe if the Amish were in Australia they'd still be using gaol too.

I never have though and I'm older than you. This does not (the being older thing), as it may appear, make me happy, not at all.

I was certain ring a ring a rosy was about the plague. What the hell is it about then??

WitchOne said...


Ring a ring a ring rosy, a pocket full of posy, a tishoo a tishoo we all fall down.

Cows in the meadow eating buttercups, a tishoo a tishoo we all stand up.

Nope, still doesn't make any sense.


Ramon Insertnamehere said...

Who the hell knows, Witchie.

I think Puss went to school in 1870s Glenrowan.

This may explain why she's wearing a Crinoline

wari lasi said...

I thought it was about the plague too. As Ramon shattered the myth it's up to him to come up with an explanation I reckon.

WitchOne said...

Yeah, I have young children and now I have warped their delicate young minds with incorrect historical references to their favourite nursery rhymes. Damn straight Ramon should fix this abominable situation!

Alex said...

Cheers for the advice Ramon and Wari. I'm sure I won't feel nearly as bad the next time I cut one of those people off in mid-sentence.

I thought it was gaol right up until I went to 'proper school'. Probably because I was reading comics from the 40s and 50s.

Ramon Insertnamehere said...

As this bloke says

An alternative and more probable explanation, and one which is almost always the case with nursery rhymes, is that the words are playful nonsense..

So there!

Puss In Boots said...

1870s Glenrowan is probably where my school's library got all their books from. And their teachers, come to think of it.

It was a tiny country school with 4 teachers, and barely enough students to fit into a clown car.

Mr E Discharge said...

It's "jail".

"Gaol" is a term used by dyslexic soccer fans.

patchouligirl said...

These English nursery rhymes are for wimps, black plague or not. Our German grandmother traumatised us with Struwwelpeter ("shock headed Peter)". This book is obedience through terror. Sorry I haven't figured out how to do a link yet but heres an online menu - check out what happens to the kid who sucks his thumb or pauline with the matches. We were given this as small children. This is the first time I've seen it in years and I can remember the illustrations clearly. I think you'll agree they are hard to forget.

Puss In Boots said...

Holy crap, Patch! Those are awful!

Lewd Bob said...

Wow PG, that Pauling was highly combustible.

Thank god I noticed (and corrected) a stray apostrophe in the above post before Melba did. Phew.

Lewd Bob said...

Clearly what I meant by Pauling was Pauline.

Although I have a use for Pauling: when you leave a highly successful and influential band and become a total dickhead, you're said to be Pauling.

patchouligirl said...

Its harder to see on the webpage but there are little drops of blood falling from where the kids thumbs were. And check out what happenned to Augustus who didn't eat his soup.

Lewd Bob said...


catlick said...

I'm over 50 and I always visited my brother in "jail". And European fairy tales, especially Polish ones, are gruesome. Poles told a tale of the haggard witch who would visit in the night and lick the sugary teeth of children who hadn't brushed. Fucked UP! said...

Can't remember what I was taught at school about jail/gaol, but know jail is preferred in newspapers, online etc because it's easier to pick up a typo in that than gaol/goal.

Boogeyman said...

Jail vs gaol - easy enough to explain -

Australia was settled by drunken, scurvy-addled Cockney recidivists. Do you suppose they had a snowflake's chance in Dubbo of spelling the word correctly?