A month or so back, I was reading a thread on Ravelry, where I discovered that a weasel as referred to in the rhyme, and in thread work, is not a small mammal, but a tool for the winding of spun thread. The mental image of each syllable being a turn of the weasel, until it “pops”, whilst managing children and watching a busy household was compelling. I was therefore delighted to find a book titled Pop Goes the Weasel providing theories, or longer stories, explaining the meanings of nursery rhymes.
There are fascinating narratives provided for each of the rhymes in this book, linking into (mostly English) history, and discussing how in a preliterate world, where the authorities handed out harsh punishments to those who were subordinate, passing on news through nonsense rhymes was used for communication. I’m not sure to what extent this was true – how many people would have really known that the “Three blind mice” were the Oxford Martyrs, burned at the stake by Mary I??
Although I did read it with a small bucket of salt to hand, it was an interesting look at less savory parts of English history, as well as details of everyday life that are not clear from the rhymes alone.