Monday, September 7, 2009

Ring around the Rosie?

            Typically, the common nursery rhyme is associated with the bubonic plague that devastated Europe. However, there is another argument that the rhyme is a reference to smallpox. The entire rhyme is:

             A ring around the rosie,

              Pocket full of posies,

              Ashes, Ashes!

              We all fall down.

The “rosie” rash is apparently very uncommon in the bubonic plague, rather it might refer to the red rash that develops in the early stages of smallpox.  “Pocket” seems to be a distortion of the old English word “pocke”, which is the singular version of pox. Furthermore,  “posies” may be a distortion of the characteristic pus.  The final two verses refer to death. Overall the rhyme reads, “ a red ring rash with a pocke full of pus. Everyone dies.”  We cannot be completely sure of the true origin of the nursery rhyme, but this theory appears to be stronger than the “bubonic plague” theory. Even post eradication, smallpox may still live on even in today’s nursery rhymes.

No comments:

Post a Comment