Sunday, March 01, 2009

PC Nursery Rhymes

Today we went into the city to a community concert that was being put on by the ABC (our public broadcast service). There were two parts of the concert. In the morning there was the children's concert and in the afternoon concert which was featuring artists such as Mark Seymour, John Schumann and the Choir of Hard Knocks as well as some ABC celebrities and comedians. We didn't plan to stay for the afternoon concert, because our idea for going was really for my nephew who is just about 18 months. The characters who were going to perform at the concert were Dorothy the Dinosaur (friend of the Wiggles), Bananas in Pyjamas, The Fairies (who I had never heard of before) and a few of the Play School presenters. While we didn't stay to the end because my nephew was getting a bit cranky we were able to revisit many of our favourite kids songs. It was a bit unfortunate for my son, who at 10 is way too cool and jaded to actually have fun at an event like this and so spent most of the time being bored!

Anyway, one of the things that I have thought about before, but came up again today was how some of the words of nursery rhymes have been changed. For example, today they were singing Miss Polly had a Dolly. The words I always knew were:

Miss Polly had a dolly who was sick, sick, sick
So she phoned for the doctor to come quick, quick, quick.
The doctor came with his bag and his hat
and he knocked on the door with a rat-a-tat.

He looked at the dolly and he shook his head.
And he said, "Miss Polly put her straight to bed."
He wrote on a paper for a pill, pill, pill.
"I'll be back in the morning with my bill, bill, bill."

Apparently, nursery rhyme performers have figured out that there are no doctors around anymore who will defer payment until after treatment because the last line as performed at the concert today was "I'll be back in the morning. Yes I will, will, will".

For another example, not too long ago I was reading my nephew's nursery rhyme book and we got to Three Blind Mice. Here are the words I remember:

Three blind mice, three blind mice,
See how they run, see how they run,
They all ran after the farmer's wife,
Who cut off their tails with a carving knife,
Did you ever see such a thing in your life,
As three blind mice?

Now admittedly it is pretty gruesome, and like so many nursery rhymes is actually based on events from history, but now the words just seem really tame:

Three blind mice, three blind mice,
See how they spin, see how they spin,
They pin the tail on the kitty cat
While wearing silly party hats
Have you ever seen such a thing in your life
As three blind mice.

I am sure that there are plenty of other examples out there but these are just two that I know of.

As we were leaving one of the Playschool presenters, Jay Laga'aia was singing a version of this song which I really enjoyed. Like so many of our Playschool presenters, Jay is quite a versatile entertainer. He has appeared in many TV series, and even in Star Wars. This isn't Jay singing but it is still a beautiful song.


  1. Well, I can't say I really like the new version of Three Blind Mice. Not that I should admittedly like the old version, but anyway! I am surprised they didn't totally rewrite Miss Polly had a Dolly because doctors don't really do house calls anymore, either... Let alone wait for money!

  2. OMG! My kids used to love the Wiggles. Great now I have the Fruit Salad song in my head. Thank you Marg! :D lol

  3. I can see why Playschool wants to sanitise the more gruesome nursery rhymes. But on the other hand, I remember reading an essay about fairy tales and why those dark, macabre stories are so well loved by children and allows them to think about concepts of good and evil. (I'm thinking of the Brothers Grimm in particular. I still remember one of the stories where this guy kills his grandmother and then props her up on the carriage and pretends she's still alive!)

  4. Wow, I had no idea! I do think the old version of three blind mice is a little intense, but to change it!? crazy talk.

    I love, LOVE the video!

  5. Well, and if they're going to change it, at least make it rhyme!

    Once I went to a library program with my kids, and the programmer did "There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly." Instead of "perhaps she'll die," she did - I swear! - "perhaps she'll get sick." The other way was just too disturbing, she confided in me afterwards. My husband and I still sing that and crack up.