5 Nursery Rhymes with Questionable Lyrics

Remember that episode of Friends when Rachel and Ross sing “Baby Got Back” to Emma?

That may have been for comedic purposes, but they were actually on to something; researchers have recently found that singing soothes babies for much longer than talking does!

However, before you clear your throat and belt away, let’s talk about song options for a moment. You’re most likely going to sing a popular nursery rhyme to your little one, right? That’s what I was doing today, when mid-song it suddenly occurred to me that this is actually quite inappropriate. Who on earth wrote these lyrics?!

The song in question was Humpty Dumpty:

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall
All the king’s horses and all the King’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty together again

So… Humpty Dumpty is dead? Or at the very least, seriously injured?! These were the thoughts running through my mind when I was reminded of a couple of other nursery rhymes where the main character may also have been unceremoniously killed off:

It’s raining; it’s pouring.
The old man is snoring.
He went to bed and bumped his head,
And he wouldn’t get up in the morning.

He what…? Is he dead too?!

In fact, not even the babies being sang to are spared:

Rock-a-bye baby on the tree top,
When the wind blows the cradle will rock.
When the bough breaks,
The cradle will fall,
And down will come baby
Cradle and all.


say what?

Moving on swiftly to poor old Jack:

Jack and Jill went up the hill
To fetch a pail of water.
Jack fell down and broke his crown,
And Jill came tumbling after.

He broke his crown. Wait, what? The guy BROKE his HEAD! How morbid is that? But to be honest, that’s not what bothers me most about this particular rhyme. I want to know what Jack and Jill were going up the hill for in the first place. I’m no expert on water-fetching, but aren’t wells typically found at the bottom of hills? Hmmm, very dodgy.

But the straw that broke my rhyme-ridden back was Yanky Doodle Went to Town. It’s one verse in particular that I am baffled by, which goes like this:

Father and I went down to camp,
Along with Captain Gooding,
And there we saw the men and boys
As thick as hasty pudding.

Having never heard of “hasty pudding” before, I confess I initially thought the line said “tasty pudding.” But even after being corrected, I still don’t understand why the men and boys have to be described as ANY pudding!

Fellow parents, I think “Baby Got Back” may well be the safest option we have. That is all.

The Secret Diary of Agent Spitback

15 thoughts on “5 Nursery Rhymes with Questionable Lyrics

  1. Iram says:

    Oh my goodness. That’s so funny. My one year old thinks ‘whip nae nae’ is a nursery rhyme. I think it teaches them about movements of different parts of the body. It’s on the same par as ‘head, shoulders, knees and toes’……🙈

  2. Shamiala says:

    Hahaha I totally agree with you baby got back is the safest option otherwise everyone seems to be dead! Really enjoyed reading your post today!

  3. The Anxious Dragon says:

    Three Blind mice……they chop off their tales with a carving knife!!
    The old lady who lived in a shoe whips he children and sends them to bed hungry!!
    Nursery rhymes are evil things 😉

  4. tammymum says:

    That’s brilliant, I love it! We’re so used to hearing them as children we don’t question them as adults! But take a minute to think about it and it opens a whole of worms!

  5. agentspitback says:

    Bwahahaha, too true! I never realised this until one day, my kid burst into tears, demanding the I “fix” Humpty Dumpty back together again! Even the traditional “fairy tales” like Red Riding Hood – wolf who EATS Grandma? – all very questionable as well. Loved this post. Hope to see you again at #abitofeverything

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