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"Pop! Goes the Weasel" is an English language nursery rhyme and singing game. It has a Roud Folk Song Index number of 5249.

Lyrics

There are many different versions of the lyrics to the song. Most share the basic verse:

Half a pound of tuppenny rice,
Half a pound of treacle.
That’s the way the money goes,
Pop! goes the weasel.


Often a second verse is added:

Every night when I get home
The monkey's on the table,
Take a stick and knock it off,
Pop! goes the weasel.


Origins

Despite some assumptions this song can only be traced back to the mid-nineteenth century, when a music sheet acquired by the British Librarymarker in 1853 described a dance, 'Pop! Goes the Weasel', which was, according to the music sheet, 'An Old English Dance, as performed at Her Majesty's & The Nobilities Balls, with the Original Music'. It had a tune very similar to that used today and only the words "Pop! Goes the Weasle". There is evidence that several people tried to add lyrics to the popular tune. The following verse had been written by 1855 when it quoted in a performance at the Theatre Royal:

Up and down the City Road
In and out the Eagle
That's the way the money goes
Pop! goes the weasel.


American versions

The song seems to have crossed the Atlantic in the 1850s when the lyrics were still unstable in Britain and was printed in Boston in 1858 with the lyric:

All around the cobbler's house,
The monkey chased the people.
And after them in double haste,
Pop! goes the weasel.


In 1901 in New York the opening lyric was:

All around the chicken coop,
The possum chased the weasel.


The most common recent version was not recorded until 1914. In addition to the three verses above, American versions often include some of the following:

All around the Mulberry Bush,
The monkey chased the weasel.
The monkey stopped to pull up his sock, (or The monkey stopped to scratch his nose)
Pop! goes the weasel.


All around the Mulberry Bush.
The warthog chased the weasel.
The warthog pulled out his elephant gun.
Pop! goes the Weasel.


Half a pound of tuppenny rice,
Half a pound of treacle.
Mix it up and make it nice,
Pop! goes the weasel.


Up and down the City Road, (also seen as Up and down the King's Highway)
In and out the Eagle,
That’s the way the money goes,
Pop! goes the weasel.


For you may try to sew and sew,
But you'll never make anything regal,
That’s the way the money goes,
Pop! goes the weasel.


The monkey and the weasel fought,
The weasel's really feeble,
The monkey punched him in the face,
Pop! goes the weasel.


Every time when I come home
The monkey's on the table,
Cracking nuts and eating spice
Pop! goes the weasel.


Every time when I come home
The monkey's on the table,
Take a stick and knock it off
Pop! goes the weasel.


Contemporary verses in the United States include these:

All around the mulberry bush (or cobbler's bench)
The monkey chased the weasel;
The monkey thought 'twas all in fun, (or "'twas all in good sport") (or "that it was a joke")
Pop! goes the weasel.


A penny for a spool of thread,
A penny for a needle—
That's the way the money goes,
Pop! goes the weasel.


Jimmy's got the whooping cough
And Timmy's got the measles
That's the way the story goes
Pop! goes the weasel.


All around the vinegar jug
The monkey chased the weasel;
The monkey pulled the stopper out,
Pop! goes the weasel.


I've got no time to wait aside,
No time to sit and bide my time,
I'm off for now. Hello, Goodbye!
Pop! goes the weasel.


All around the vinegar jug
The monkey chased the weasel;
The monkey pulled the stopper out,
Pop! goes the weasel.


I've got no time to wait aside,
No time to sit and bide my time,
I'm off for now. Hello, Goodbye!
Pop! goes the weasel.


There are numerous American versions

As printed in Vance Randolph, Ozark Folksongs, Volume III,pp. 368-369. Randolph's #556, the A text. Collected 1926 fromMrs. Marie Wilbur of Pineville, Missouri:

All around the countin' house
The monkey chased the weasel,
The merchant kissed the farmer's wife,
Pop! goes the weasel!


A nickel for a hank of thread,
A penny for a needle,
The peddler kissed the merchant's wife,
Pop! goes the weasel!


Fifteen cents for calico,
An' ten cents more for needles,
That's where all my money goes,
Pop! goes the weasel!


Civil War version printed in [H. M. Wharton], War Songs andPoems of the Southern Confederacy, p. 387:

King Abraham is very sick,
Old Scott has got the measles,
Manassas we have now at last --
Pop! goes the weasel!


All around the cobbler's house
The monkey chased the people,
And after them in double haste
Pop! goes the weasel!


When the night walks in as black as a sheep,
And the hen on her eggs was fast asleep,
When into her nest with a serpent's creep
Pop! goes the weasel!


Of all the dance that ever was planned
To galvanize the heel and the hand,
There's none that moves so gay and grand
As pop! goes the weasel!


Pop! Goes de Weasel- 1853 by Stepehn T. Gordon

From sheet music published 1853 by Stepehn T. Gordon. The above is the spelling on the interior page; the title page is inscribed:

Pop! goes the weazel SONGArranged by Chas. Twiggs Esq.

When de night walks in, as black as a sheep,
And de hen and her eggs am fast asleep,
Den into her nest with a sarpent's creep,
:CHORUS: "Pop! goes de Weasel."


Oh all de dance dat evver was plann'd
To galvanize de heel and de hand,
Dar's none dat moves so gay and grand As
:CHORUS: "Pop! goes de Weasel."


De lover, when he pants t'rough fear,
to pop de question to his dear,
He joins dis dance, den in her ear,
:CHORUS: "Pop! goes de Weasel."


2
John Bull tells, in de ole cow's hum,
How Uncle Sam used Uncle Tom,
While he makes some white folks slaves at home,
:By "Pop! goes de Weasel!"


He talks about a friendly trip
To Cuba in a steam war-ship,
But Uncle Sam may make him skip
:By "Pop! goes de Weasel!"


He's sending forth his iron hounds
To bark us off de fishin'-grounds --
He'd best beware of Freedom's sounds
:Ob "Pop! goes de Weasel!"


3
De Temperance folks from Souf to Main,
Against all liquor spout and strain,
But when dey feels an ugly pain
:Den "Pop! goes de Weasel!"


All New York in rush now whirls
While de World's Fair its flag unfurls,
But de best World's Fair am when our girls
:Dance "Pop! goes de Weasel!"


Den form two lines straight as a string,
Dance in and out, den three in a ring --
Dive under like de duck, and sing
:"Pop! goes de Weasel!"


"POP! GOES DE WEASEL" 1859 arranged by Charley Twiggs, published by S. T. Gordon; (A reprint of the 1853 lyrics with minor differences):

When de night walks in as black as a sheep
and de hen and her eggs am fast asleep
Den into her nest with a sarpent's creep
Pop! goes de weasel


Oh all de dance dat ebber was plann'd
To galvanize de heel and hand
Dar's none dat moves so gay and grand as
Pop! goes the weasel


De lover, when he pants t'rough fear,
To pop de question to his dear
He joins dis dance, den in her ear
Pop! goes de weasel.


John Bull tells, in de ole cow's hum
How Uncle Sam used "Uncle Tom"
While he makes some white folks "slaves" at home,
By Pop! goes de Weasel


He talks about a friendly trip
To Cuba in a steam war-ship
But Uncle Sam may make him skip
By Pop! goes de weasel


He's sending forth his iron hounds
To bark us off de fishin'-grounds
He'd best beware of Freedom's sounds
Ob Pop! goes de Weasel


De temperance folks from Souf to Main
Against all liquor spout and strain
But when dey feels and ugly pain
Den Pop! goes de Weasel


All New York in rush now whirls
Whar de "World's Fair" its flag unfurls
But de best World's Fair and when our girls
Dance Pop! goes de Weasel


Den form two lines as straight as a string
Dance in and out, den three in a ring
Dive under like de duck, and sing
Pop! goes de Weasel


POP! GOES DE WEASEL American Memory (circa 1850s):

When de night walks in, as black as a sheep,
And de hen and her eggs am fast asleep,
Den into her nest with a sarpent's creep,
"Pop! goes de Weasel!"


CHORUS: Den form two lines as straight as a string,
Dance in and out, den three in a ring--
Dive under like de duck, and sing,
"Pop! goes de Weasel!"


Ob all de dance dat ebber was planned
To galvanize de heel and hand,
Dar's none dat moves so gay and grand
As "Pop! goes de Weasel!"


Den form two lines, &c.


De lover, when he pants t'rough fear,
To pop de question to his dear,
He joins dis dance, den in her ear,
"Pop! goes de Weasel!"


Den form two lines, &c.


John Bull tells, in de ole cow's hum,
How Uncle Sam used Uncle Tom,
While he makes some white folks slaves at home,
By "Pop! goes de Weasel!"


Den form two lines, &c.


He talks about a friendly trip
To Cuba, in a steam war-ship,
But Uncle Sam may make him skip
"By "Pop! goes de Weasel!"


Den form two lines, &c.


He's sending forth his iron hounds
To bark us off de fishin'-grounds--
He'd best beware of Freedom's sounds
Ob "Pop! goes de Weasel!"


Den form two lines, &c.


De Temperance folks from Souf to Maine,
Against all liquor spout and strain,
But when dey feels an ugly pain,
Den "Pop! goes de Weasel!"


Den form two lines, &c.


All New York in rush now whirls
Whar de World's Fair its flag unfurls,
But de best World's Fair am when our girls
Dance "Pop! goes de Weasel!"


Den form two lines, &c.


POP! GOES THE WEAZLE (sic) NO. 3.H. De Marsan, Publisher, 38 Chatham Street, N. Y. [no date][The line "Sebastopol's not taken yet" would seem to date this version to 1854-55.]:

Queen Victoria is very sick,
Napoleon's got the measles,
Sebastopol's not taken yet;
Pop! goes the weazle,


CHORUS: All round the cobbler's bench,
The monkey chased the weazle,
The priest, he kissed the cobbler's wife,
Pop! went the weazle.


A penny for a ball of thread,
A penny for a needle,
That's the way the money goes;
Pop! goes the weazle. CHORUS


My wife, she is awful sick,
The baby's got the measles,
Sally's got the whooping cough;
Pop! goes the weazle. CHORUS


Johnny Bull, he makes his brag,
He can whip the whole creation,
Why don't he take Sebastopol,
By Pop! goes the weazle. CHORUS


Mayor Wood has put the rumsellers through,
The Maine Law's a sad evil,
We cannot get our toddy now;
Pop! goes the weazle. CHORUS


British versions tend to be a combination of American and British lyrics.

As a singing game

In Britain the rhyme has been played as a children's game since at least the late nineteenth century. The game is played to the "first" verse quoted above. Several rings are formed and they dance around as the verse is sung. One more players than the number of rings are designated as "weasels", all but one standing in the rings. When the "Pop! goes the weasel" line is reached they have to rush to a new ring before anyone else can. The one that fails is eliminated and the number of circles is reduced by one until there is only one weasel left.

Meaning and interpretations

because of the obscure nature of the lyrics there have been many suggestions for their significance, particularly over the meaning of the phrase 'Pop! goes the weasel', including: that it is a tailor's flat iron, a hatter's tool, a clock reel used for measuring in spinning, a piece of silver plate, or that 'weasel and stoat' is rhyming slang for 'coat', which is 'popped or pawned' to visit or after visiting the Eagle pub, that it is a mishearing of weevil or vaisselle, that it was a nickname of James I, and that 'rice' and 'treacle' are slang terms for potassium nitrate and charcoal and that therefore the rhyme refers to the gunpowder plot. Other than correspondences none of these theories has any additional evidence to support it, and some can be discounted because of the known history of the song. Iona and Pete Opie observed that, even at the height of the dance craze in the 1850s no-one seemed to know what the phrase meant.

It is possible that the "eagle" mentioned in the song's third verse refers to The Eagle freehold pub along Shepherdess Walk in Londonmarker, which was established as a music hall in 1825 and was rebuilt as a public house in 1901. This public house bears a plaque with this interpretation of the nursery rhyme and the pub's history. Shepherdess Walk is just off the City Roadmarker mentioned in the same verse.

In popular culture

In literature



In film



In music



In comedy

  • Andy Kaufman used "Pop! Goes the Weasel" as a karaoke 'stage prop'.


In television

  • "Pop! Goes the Weasel" is prominently featured in the 1960s television series The Prisoner. An instrumental version is part of the soundtrack of several episodes (most notably the premiere episode "Arrival"), and in "Once Upon a Time" the lead character Number Six, whose mind has been reverted to childhood, begins singing the song, but is goaded by his nemesis, Number Two, who turns the word "Pop" into an acronym for "Protect Other People", leading the two to yell "Why POP?" at each other.
  • In the Star Trek: The Next Generation pilot "Encounter at Farpoint" (1987), Lt. Commander Data is whistling the song when first encountered by Commander Riker, who supplies the last notes. The event is referenced again in the film Star Trek: Nemesis (2002).
  • The theme song "You Don't Need Pants for the Victory Dance" from the American animated cartoon television series I Am Weasel is based on "Pop! Goes the Weasel" lyrics and song.
  • In Alias, Episode 14 in Season 2. A CIA Agent is singing the song shortly before she is being killed by an explosion (2003).
  • In The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson The episode name for the skit "Murder, She Wrote" 2008 is "Pop! Goes The Weasel... OF DEATH!".
  • In NYPD Blue Season 5 Episode 4 - "The Truth Is Out There" (1997) Andy Sipowicz asks almost everyone what "Pop! goes the weasel" means after singing it to Theo in the tub.


In children's toys

  • The song was used for the popular series of Jack-in-the-boxes manufactured by Mattel. When a crank on the side of the box was turned, the tune would be heard instrumentally, and when the music arrived at the word Pop the lid would fly open and a clown figure would pop out. This Jack-in-the-box, together with the tune, was featured in the opening credits of the popular Romper Room TV series.


References

  1. I. Opie and P. Opie, The Singing Game (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985), pp. 216-18.
  2. W. E. Studwell, The Americana Song Reader (Haworth Press, 1997), pp. 135-6.
  3. [1]
  4. James J. Fuld, The Book of World-Famous Music: Classical, Popular, and Folk (1966, 5th edn., Dover, 2000), pp. 440-1.
  5. D. D. Volo, Family Life in Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-century America (Greenwood, 2006), p. 264.
  6. P. Zwart, Islington; a History and Guide (London: Taylor & Francis, 1973), p. 42.


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