Dad’s the Word Column: Ludicrous lyrics in nursery rhymes

Milton Keynes blogger and married dad of two, Gareth Ellis, has noticed how bizarre some children’s songs really are…

Nursery rhymes and children’s songs are weird.

At the moment, it’s a common occurrence to hear the phrase ‘Alexa, play children’s music,’ to keep Rupert and Emi entertained.

But in listening every day for the last two months I’ve learned a lot of the lyrics to these songs and my god are some of them bizarre.

For example, Old Mother Hubbard. It starts out simple enough. Old woman has a dog, goes to feed it, realises she doesn’t have any, so poor dog doesn’t get any.

I mean for starters you’d just go and buy the poor thing some food (as long as you remembered your mask.)

But then she goes to buy him all kinds of things to make up for it and he repays her by doing weird things.

I mean, she went to the tailors to buy him a coat and when she came back, he was riding a goat. I mean, where did the goat even come from?

I’ve been singing Oranges and Lemons for years, however, if you listen to it there’s a story that runs through.

You owe me five farthings, when will you pay me?

I don’t know, then someone gets their head cut off! I mean, talk about escalating quickly.

Over five farthings! That’s just half a penny in today’s money (minus inflation.)

In the song, Five Little Monkeys, it tells the story of a family of monkeys that lets their children jump on the bed, counting down one by one as each one falls off, bumping their head.

This is despite the fact that each time ‘Mummy phoned the doctor,’ he tells her ‘No more monkeys jumping on the bed.’

I mean, if that was human children, you’d stop everyone jumping after the first one fell, right?

Finally, and probably my favourite on this list, is the old lady who swallowed a fly.

I mean, just have a drink of water, don’t swallow a spider.

And then after that how is she swallowing a cat? Is she a snake? I mean, which doctor gave her that advice?

I know what people are going to say, that loads of these songs have a meaning, but that doesn’t stop them from being weird!

Riding a goat indeed.

Gareth writes a regular blog at and you can follow him on Instagram at @dads_the_word_blog

This feature was published in the April and May 2021 issue of Celebrate:MK lifestyle magazine. Read the full magazine above or by clicking on this link.

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