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Ring Around the Rosie

I’m sure we all heard the nursery rhyme “Ring Around the Rosie” as a child. Perhaps you recall joining hands with your classmates or friends while singing the tune, moving in a circle until you get too dizzy to stay on your toes, dropping to the ground in a roar of laughter.

But, have you ever wondered what the lyrics actually mean? 

Recently, I discovered that this song is far from children-friendly and is definitely not a cute nonsense nursery rhyme. 

The reference to “ring around the Rosie” is referring to an itchy rash around the infected sore of someone sick with the plague. “Pocket full of posies” were the flower pedals that were showered upon the deceased patients to ward off odour. “Ashes” were the cremated remains of the deceased. And “we all fall down” means in the end, it will cost our lives. 

When I read this, I was shocked. How could we allow children to sing these deathly nursery rhymes at school? 

Fortunately, not all nursery rhymes come from deathly origins, and some would even dispute this one too. The nursery rhyme wasn’t created until the mid-1800s, some 200 years after the plague. So, in the end, the song’s meaning is left up to interpretation. Do you want to believe that it was born of the Black Plague or is it simply just some pals feeling nostalgic in a rose garden?

That’s up to you to decide.

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