Saturday, 6 September 2014

More Weasel Words

I wrote the othere day about the English nursery rhyme 'Pop Goes the Weasel'. My friend Jane (about the only person to comment on this blog) writes the following from England:


I have a book called Pop Goes the Weasel: The Secret Meanings of Nursery Rhymes by Albert Jack and it also has 'weasel' meaning coat (weasel and stoat) According to him an earlier possible meaning is to do with immigrant textile workers. A spinner's weasel was a mechanical thread-measuring device shaped like a spoked wheel, which made a popping sound when the required length of thread had been reached. The last verse (which I'd never heard before) includes 'A penny for a ball of thread, Another for a needle'. 


The third verse (which I do remember) is

Every night when I go out,

The monkey's on the table.

Take a stick and knock it off,

Pop goes the weasel.


A monkey is apparently a Victorian sailors' term for a glazed tankard and 'knocking off a stick' meant to drink alcohol. As a child I predictably felt sorry for the poor monkey being pushed off the table. I assumed it was something to do with organ grinders. 


I (Simon) should add something about possible confusion of weasels and stoats: the weasel is weasily distinguished from the stoat, which is stoatally different.


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