Nursery Rhymes Are Short On Accuracy

A Geezer’s Notebook, By Jim Foster

Having long ago told you the true stories of Little Red Riding Hood and Goldilocks, it behooves me to clear up another misunderstanding involving a fairy tale, or in this particular case a nursery rhyme that has been passed down for generations. Its inaccuracy has caused many sleepless nights for both tot and parent. Today we shall investigate the strange case of an elderly lady and her dog.

Old Mother Hubbard

If you had any classical upbringing at all, you will remember the nursery rhyme of the same name. Granted it is hardly on a par with Milton’s Paradise Lost, Chaucer’s The Miller’s Tale or his ribald and highly erotic poem, The Miller’s Tail. Personally, I prefer the latter, but I’m a little kinky anyway.

If you will recall the rhyme, one of many composed by Anonymous, a Greek I gather by the spelling, old Mother Hubbard went to the cupboard to get her poor doggie a bone. I’m not sure where this tragedy took place, but here in Orillia, the cultural capital of Ontario and perhaps Canada, we rarely keep bones in our cupboards. Perhaps they do in Barrie, a city not known for the excess of brainpower amongst its citizenry. Let’s just say that normal people do not clutter up their cupboards with bones – empty wine and liquor bottles maybe.

I suspect this story is trying to tell us that Ms. Hubbard is, or was, destitute. If so, why didn’t the raconteur simply come out with it and ask the reader or listener to send the old dear a few bucks to tide her over until her pension cheque came in. Better still, it is quite possible to have a sizeable sum of money transferred to her account from your Visa or MasterCard on a monthly basis. The best thing about that is Ms Hubbard can quietly increase the amount without any notice as the Toronto Star does to me on a regular basis. They claim that I was notified of the increase in advance, but I say ‘BS’ but we are not here to discuss my problems; we have a dog starving somewhere.

We don’t even know where Ms. Hubbard lives. I suspect it is in England where widows and dogs starve all the time.

Come to think of it we don’t even know if she is a widow. For all we know she is married with so many kids she lives in a shoe. That’s quite possible since I don’t recall the old woman in the shoe ever mentioning her marital status. If that’s who she is there is more than just a dog starving, several urchins could be sorely in need of a good meal. By the way, her husband should be fixed. The man must be an animal – or a devout Catholic.

The problem with the Hubbard rhyme is it doesn’t. If you will recall,

        Old Mother Hubbard

        Went to the cupboard

        To get her poor doggie a bone

        When she got there the cupboard was bare

        And her poor doggie had none.

‘None’ does not rhyme with ‘Bone’. I suggest the last line should have been, It appears the dog’s bone had flown.

Having solved that problem let us move on to the classic

                There was an old girl from Skilditchen

                Who was scratching herself in the kitchen

                Her mother said ‘Rose, crabs I suppose?

                Yes and the…

On second thought we shall leave that one for another time and move on to the strange case of Humpty Dumpty. If you will recall Humpty sat on a wall and apparently fell (or was pushed, the case is still under investigation) and was seriously injured.

Now here’s where it gets strange. There is nothing in the poem to suggest Mr. Dumpty was an egg. Many years ago in England a humpty dumpty was a rather rude jibe ridiculing fat persons. (In 2023 it is considered in very bad taste to make sport of another’s physical failures – especially since, through no fault of my own, I seem to have added a kilopascal or two.) Assuming that information is correct, I suspect Humpty was a big fat guy and we shouldn’t be worrying about him. Instead we better look after the poor jerk he landed on.

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