My Take on Nursery Rhymes: Wee Willie Winkie Can Just Shove It.


Since my almost-two year-old nephew is in town, I’ve been listening to a lot of nursery rhymes these days.  Every time we get in the truck to go about the day, our adventures are narrated by peppy voices belting out JACK SPRAT COULD EAT NO FAT; HIS WIFE COULD EAT NO LEEEEEEEEEEEAN!  AND SO, BETWEEN THEM BOTH, YOU SEE…THEY LICKED THE PLATTER CLEEEEEEEEEEEAN!

Over the duration of the past few weeks, I’ve learned this one thing: Nursery rhymes are every bit as depressing as fairy tales.

Anyone who’s ever taken a high school or college literature class has learned that the story of Hansel and Gretel is not really kid-friendly at all.  And don’t even get me started on creepy ol’ Rumpelstiltskin.  Those Brothers Grimm, they were a gruesome bunch indeed.

So that’s common knowledge.  But nobody ever talks about simple nursery rhymes (short little ditties, as opposed to the longer fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm), and how depressing those are, too.  For example:

Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet, eating her curds and whey.  Along came a spider who sat down beside her and frightened Miss Muffet away?  Hello?  Hasn’t that damnable spider ever heard of personal space?

381px-Little_Miss_Muffet_1940_posterThis particular Little Miss Muffet has quite the pair of cankles, hasn’t she?  Image from here.

Or what about this one:

Five little ducks went out to play over the hill and far away (empty nest syndrome, anyone?).  Mother Duck said, “Quack, quack, quack,” but only four little ducks came back?  Did anyone ever think to call the police to report the missing ducklings?  Of course not—poor Mother Duck, all she ever says is “Quack, quack, quack.”  And what about Father Duck?  Why doesn’t he get any of the blame for the missing kids?  Isn’t he involved in his children’s lives?  He’s probably a dadgum workaholic—off having an affair with his secretary while his children are running away from home.  This is male chauvinism at its worst.  It’s an outrage.

Or this:

Hickory, dickory, dock! The mouse ran up the clock.  [Sick.]  The clock struck one, the mouse ran down!  Hickory, dickory, dock.  I don’t know about you, but I have a mouse living in my garage right now, and that’s bad enough.  To have one scampering up and down my grandfather clock all day would drive me to lunacy.

And speaking of lunatics, have you heard the one about Wee Willie Winkie?  (Dude totally needs a name change.)  Yeah, well, just wait til you read about this weirdo:

Wee Willie Winkie runs through the town, upstairs and downstairs in his nightgown.  [Has he never heard of boxer-briefs?  {Come to think of it—probably not.  He is called Wee Willie Winkie, after all.  His mother probably still dresses him and tucks him into bed.}]  Rapping at the windows, crying through the lock, “Are the children all in bed?  For it’s now eight o’clock!  First of all, Wee Willie, who made you the curfew police? And why?  With a name like Wee Willie Winkie, do you really think anyone’s gonna take you seriously?  And secondly, stop rapping at the windows and asking about the children.  It makes you look like a super-creepy child voyeur, and that crap’s not cool.

Rock-a-bye baby in the treetop. When the wind blows, the cradle will rock.  When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall, and down will come baby, cradle and all? What’s the baby doing in the tree?  Who put her there?  It’s likely some mother couldn’t stand the screaming anymore, so she tied the baby’s cradle to a branch of the tree and went inside to have a latté, never dreaming that a simple windstorm would bring her demise.  Poor little innocent baby; crushed to death by a broken bough.  And this is what we use to lull our own living children to sleep?

Don’t even get me started on Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater—that bastard wouldn’t know a good wife if she bit him in the face.  I feel sorry for the poor old broad he’s got locked up in a pumpkin somewhere.

Anyway, it’s obvious I have some issues with these nursery rhymes.  They’ve always left me feeling a little unsettled, even as a kid.

Which means there’s no way I can submit my own children to such depressing jingles.  I need to start thinking of some alternatives now, so I can be ready when I do have kids.  {Hey, don’t laugh–I’m trying to be prepared.  I already own What to Expect When You’re Expecting and BabyWise, plus a high chair as of last weekend.}  Someone help me out—what do you play for your kids in the car on long drives?  Are there any nursery rhymes you specifically stay away from because of how creeped out they make you feel?

Please tell me I’m not alone in my principles.

About Camille

I'm Camille. I have a butt-chin. I live in Canada. I was born in Arizona. I like Diet Dr. Pepper. Hello. You can find me on Twitter @archiveslives, Facebook at, instagram at ArchivesLives, and elsewhere.
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19 Responses to My Take on Nursery Rhymes: Wee Willie Winkie Can Just Shove It.

  1. Lindsay says:

    this is hillarious! I hope your first published book is full of new and modern nursery rhymes…that would be a lovely compilation.
    As for my own memories of ones that made me sad are the poor old woman who lived in a shoe,and mother hubbard who runs out of food and cant even feed her blasted dog a bone. Oh, and have you ever looked up the real meaning behind ‘Ring Around The Rosies’? It’s sick. You’ll have nightmares for a week.

  2. Lindsay says:

    i couldnt help myself – they were too funny:

    There was a little girl who had a little curl
    Right in the middle of her forehead.
    When she was good, she was very, very good.
    But when she was bad…
    She got a fur coat, jewels, a waterfront condo, and a sports car.

    SIMPLE SIMON met a Pie man going to the fair.
    Said Simple Simon to the Pie man,
    “What have you got there?”
    Said the Pie man unto Simon,
    “Pies, you dumb #$%!”

  3. uncle Brent says:

    My dear sweet niece Camille,as far as nursery rhymes go you left out the most famous of them all. Humpty dumpty, why was he on the wall ? Maybe it wasn’t a he after all ,maybe humpty was a she. why was humpty on the stupid wall anyways? I think he was pervert and trying to look at miss muffets tuffet through the window. Serves him right. That will make an example out of him to all the king men.Here is another question. Why would the king men care about a stupid egg anyway. Why don’t they tear him a part more and just make on omlette out of him . Fools, thats the english for you .

  4. Granmama says:

    I didn’t know you were ever going to reproduce the species. However, Becky Baily has a whole program called “I Love You Rituals” that changes the nursery rhymes from accenting the negative to making them POSITIVE. For example—
    “Twinkle, twinkle little star—
    What a wonderful child you are
    With bright eyes and nice round cheeks
    A wonderful child from head to feet—
    Twinkle twinkle little star
    What a wonderful child you are!”

    “When you’re feeling really angry
    No matter where you are
    There’s a way to feel better,
    There’s a way to be a star.
    WIth this one thing to remember
    You’ll stop anger in it’s tracks—
    Just S T O P, take a deep breath and relax.”
    Stop, take a deep breath and relax.”

    A wonderful woman lived in a shoe,
    She had so many children she knew just what to do.
    She loved them and held them
    and tucked them in bed,
    I love you, I love you, is just what she said.”

    Georgy Porgy pudning pie
    Had a friend he loved to great
    In the morning, every day
    He greeted him with a big high five.

    These are just some of the I love you rituals that have turned our HORRIFIC fairy tales into loving ones that reinforce the positive instead of the negative. If you want to know more about it all you have to do is ask. You can also google Becky Bailey or “I Love You Rituals.”

    Adell know some of these and I do a lot of them with my precious grandson, when he is able to come to his Granmama’s who only lives five doors away from him. Every time we separate I make the sign language “I LOVE YOU” sign and touch his face. It is a way we stay connected. Children who are connected on the inside have more brain capacity to listen and learn. Connections come with eye contact, touch and daily rituals where child and parent/provider feel warm and fuzzy. I agree with you about the nursery rhymes but sometimes parents don’t know the better way. Adell has the “I Love You Rituals” CD but she must have left it at home.

    This truly is the better way.

    This post was thought provoking and I felt a deep need to respond since this is what Preston has learned from birth (at least from me—his other Grandma is also trained in Conscious Discipline. His mom has read and taken some classes in this method and I am proud to say she is doing a great job giving him the consistency and structure along with the nurturing that he needs. He knows that he is both lovable and capable and VERY cute.

    Laurel Strate

  5. Granmama says:

    The Humpty Dupty I love you ritual goes like this—

    “Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall,
    Humpty Dumpty had a great fall,
    Allthe king;s horses and all the king’s men
    Were able to put Humpty back together again.”

    Changing just a few words lets kids (and parents) know that it’s O.K. to make mistakes and fall, but things can be put together agin if you get the right crew on your side.

  6. Granmama says:

    Humpty Dumpty is all about the queen of England and the poor people she governed. It was a coded message to bash the queen and to let others know that they adamently DISAPROVED of the politcal wrongs she supported.

  7. I will have you know that I had a really terrible day. Then I read this, right before getting ready for bed, and my day doesn’t seem so terrible anymore.

    I might have rude clients who make me cry and feel stressed about trying to run a business, but atleast my cankles aren’t as bad as Miss Muffets, and atleast I don’t have a mouse running up and down my clock. You know? Thank you.

  8. anonymous says:

    this was cute and very entertaining. ring around the rosies always gave me the heeby jeebies.

  9. Kelly says:

    I teach kindergarten and I despise nursery rhymes…they are a bit depressing. I have to teach them and you would be surprised by how many kids have no clue who Humpty Dumpty is.

  10. Alyssa says:

    I think everything old-school and child related is pretty terrible. Look at classic cartoons, they’re all about beating the crap out of each other and getting bullied.

    Whoever started associating children with upbeat and cheery should have won some kind of award.

  11. DeAnna says:

    Oh my freakin goodness! That just brought back memories!! My high school English teacher was exactly that an English, English teacher. So she spent a lot of time on Nursery Rhymes & all their Real meanings. Ring Around the Rosie still makes me cringe. And Mary Mary Quite Contrary, yikes! I prefer The Itsy Bitsy Spider Climbed up the Water Spout & Twinkle Little Star for my kids. There are some good ones out there to offset the ones with all the hidden meanings and inuendos. I am so glad that when my kids learn nursery rhymes they change the words to how they think it should be. Which for the most part completely changes the meaning.

  12. Cristin says:

    I love the creepy nursery rhymes, it’s like my own little inside joke. The kids don’t get it at all.

  13. Katie says:

    This cracked me up! I’m actually really impressed that you could remember all those nursery rhymes. I tried singing lullabies to Beanie the other night and I couldn’t remember ANY of them!!

  14. RatalieNose says:

    I never thought about this, but you’re SO RIGHT!
    Wait, what’s the story with Hansel and Gretel????

  15. Geneva says:

    Wee Willy Winkie sounds like a pedophile to me too.

  16. Rachel says:

    Oh, that Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater gets worse! The second verse? “Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater, had another, and didn’t love her. Peter learned to read and spell and then he loved her very well.” They aren’t clear on whether his wife was smothered by the pumpkin shell or if this “another” was his piece on the side. We listen to the Animaniacs soundtracks or sing songs. The only decent nursery rhyme I can think of is “Little Jack Horner sat in the corner, eating his Christmas Pie. He stuck in his thumb and pulled out a plum, and said ‘What a Good Boy am I!'”

  17. Chloe says:

    YOU’RE RIGHT!! hahaha
    I can’t remember any Spanish nursery rhymes… So sad!
    And Wee Willy Winkie… hmm, he must be a pedophile… Yep, definitely.

  18. Bert says: are to funny..I never understood the meaning of nursery ryhmes. I always loved them. You sure opened my eyes. I will not subject my child to those depressing nursery rhymes. thank you. :)

  19. malia says:

    Who is this willie character?! I’ve never even heard of him. This has to go down as one of the funniest blog posts.

    I agree with the poster above about ring around the rosies. When I learned that it was really about the black plague I about died.

    Who made these up anyways??

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