The dangerous subtext lurking in children’s nursery rhymes.

By Seriously Science | December 19, 2013 7:00 am
Photo: flickr/Louise Docker

Photo: flickr/Louise Docker

If you’ve ever really thought about the lyrics to the most popular nursery rhymes, it’s likely that you’ve been left wondering “WTF?” Many of the songs most often taught to the youngest of children contain creepy, inexplicable, and otherwise disturbing imagery. This (tongue-in-cheek) analysis of numerous nursery rhymes shows that the stories we are telling our children are less than nice: “We found 6 rhymes in which head injury was mentioned or suggested: ‘Humpty Dumpty,’ ‘Jack and Jill,’ ‘Hush-a-bye-baby,’ ‘Ten Little Monkeys,’ ‘It’s Raining, It’s Pouring’ and ‘Ring Around the Rosie.’ No single category appears to have been spared injury. Babies, teenagers, old men, primates, nongendered, nondescript characters — everyone suffered.” Egad.

Head injuries in nursery rhymes: evidence of a dangerous subtext in children’s literature

“Although nursery rhymes are considered an integral part of childhood, the medical events experienced by their characters have never been documented. Several popular nursery rhymes portray head injuries as inevitable events that do not require medical follow-up. In this paper, we document the prevalence of head injuries in nursery rhymes and discuss the appropriateness of the responses to them.”

Bonus quote from the full text:

“In the case of Humpty Dumpty, we question whether “all the king’s horses and all the king’s men” were capable of launching an appropriate medical intervention after Mr. Dumpty’s unfortunate accident. What sort of EMS training and equipment did these first responders have? Although the accompanying saddlebags might have contained a cervical collar, it is unlikely that a spinal board would have been available, seriously compromising spinal management. The presence of “all the king’s men” also suggests a shocking lack of crowd control. Could the crowded scene explain the inability of the responders to “put Humpty together again”? Should this attempt even have been made, given the circumstances? Might a “snatch and run” by real EMS personnel have saved the victim?”

Related text:
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  • Jason Yates

    It is kinda messed up… he busted his head open…he’s dead…hahahaha…ha.ha.ha….even when I was a kid I often wondered about humpty….I felt sad….and it was shocking to me to see him busted up in pieces…..that may be the reason I laugh at other peoples pain now….and I have no empathy for someone hurting or in pain……

    • Smiley Butthead

      Humpty was a cannon not an egg. Bit this article is complete rubbish. To think that someone was paid actual money to write this chap.

  • templeruins

    Trying to remember if Discovery was ever actually any good?

  • CSEng69

    Even as a child, “Rock-a-Bye, Baby” bothered me. Who would place an infant’s cradle in a tree???

  • seema

    I keep my daughter away from all such rhymes which teach children violence…take the ‘Three Blind mice’. A child singing ‘took a carving knife and cut them up’ is gross!

  • Rus Archer

    seriously science?

  • mariana

    Some Christmas songs are rather violent. “Little Will” from “Up on the Housetop” gets a hammer, tacks, and a whip in his stocking.

  • Bri Alb

    “Ring around the Posie” is about the bubonic plague, others are about similar things pertaining to their culture amd time. This article was crap and didn’t even talk about anything relevant.

  • KL InIdaho

    There was an old woman who lived in a shoe,
    She had so many children she didn’t know what to do.
    So she gave them some broth without any bread,
    And she whipped them all soundly and sent them to bed.

  • kagbalete

    Whoever wrote this article is an idiot…..

  • mhollis

    “Hickory dickory dock,
    Three mice ran up the clock.
    The clock struck one,
    The other two escaped with minor injuries…”

    -Evening news version.

    • Matthew Slyfield

      Inaccurate reporting from TV, but that’s hardly new. None of the mice escaped, the clock got the other two an hour later. :)


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