Lesson #194 Redux: The Teddy Bears’ Picnic

The summer after I started this blog, I came across a website that looked at the more disturbing second verses of common childhood verses and songs that we all know. Today, I learned the later verses to the Teddy Bears’ Picnic, and wow are they sinister.

The second verse is innocuous enough,

“Every Teddy Bear who’s been good is sure of a treat today. There’s lots of marvelous things to eat and wonderful games to play.”

But then it suddenly takes a really dark turn in the third (and final) verse:

“If you go down in the woods today, you’d better not go alone. It’s lovely down in the woods today, but better to stay at home.”


Nothing says childhood trauma like “your teddy bears sometimes come to life, get together in the woods for a picnic, and eat the children who follow them.”


Lesson #252: Purple People Eaters

Every once in a while something will pop into my head for absolutely no reason. Today, it was the one-eyed, one-horned flying purple people eater.

Don’t even pretend like you don’t know what I’m talking about…that’s going to be stuck in your head all day!

As I’ve gotten older, it has occurred to me that the song is potentially not about flying monsters with one eye, a horn and an appetite for purple people and is actually about a flying purple monster with one eye, a horn and a penchant for human flesh. Despite the rhythm and phrasing suggesting otherwise. But, given the whole ceiling wax thing, it is evident that I cannot trust my six-year-old to have it all figured out. So I looked up the lyrics. They are here.

It turns out that I was not incorrect. The purple people eater is in fact a consumer of purple people, not a purple consumer of people.

A few tidbits about the song: It was composed in an hour and recorded in 1958 by Sheb Wooley and went to number one in the charts.* Also, bizarrely, there was a movie made in the late 80’s based on the song that starred Neil Patrick Harris (yes, Doogie Howser — or Barney Stinson depending on your age).**

I feel this balances out the whole ceiling wax affair.

*Really, how could it not?

**That information is here.

Lesson #250: Mickey and Minnie Mouse

Just a quick lesson for today, but one I found really entertaining.

Wayne Allwine, who voiced Mickey Mouse from 1977 until his death last year,* was married to Russi Taylor, who has been the voice of Minnie Mouse since 1986.**

*He was the third voice, following Walt Disney and Jimmy MacDonald.

**This information is in Allwine’s obituary, which can be found here.

Lesson #229: A Child’s Garden of Verses

I randomly learned today that Robert Louis Stevenson wrote A Child’s Garden of Verses. I find this somewhat baffling, to be honest. The same man who wrote The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde also wrote “My Shadow” and the one about the tacks on the stairs.

Also, Robert Louis Stevenson was Scottish. Just in case you were wondering.

7/9 edit: My mother informs me that “The Swing” was one of my favourites. Rereading it, I can see why.

Lesson #214: JackĀ Spratt

This is the second attempt at this post. Cyberspace ate the last one. Anyway, as I was saying…

Speaking of Charles I being an epic wanker,* my maternal grandmother handed me a copy of a book this evening** about the fascinating and sometimes sordid history of nursery rhymes. Because liking this sort of weird stuff runs in my family.

Jack Spratt is most widely accepted among people who know and study these things to be about Charles I. The earliest recorded version of the nursery rhyme dates back to 1639 and reads: “Jack will eat no fat and Jill doth love no lean, Yet betwixt them both they lick the dishes clean.”

After Parliament refused finance for the war Charles I so desperately wanted with Spain (thus inciting the storming of the House of Commons, the retreating to the north to sulk and raise an army and then the civil war), our buddy Chuck was a little bit overdrawn in the expense column, meaning “he could eat no fat because there wasn’t any.” His lovely wife, Henrietta Marie, however, was known for her opulent taste, which meant “she couldn’t abide lean, or poor, times.” Charles’ solution? Implement a war tax (to pay for, um, the war) and assess other random taxes (to pay for Henrietta’s extravagance) by which the two “licked England clean one way or another.”***

*We were. The other day.

**I’m in the New York capital region for the evening on my way down to the Mid-Atlantic city where I did my undergraduate work to see some friends. And attend a funeral.

***All quoted text is from Chris Roberts’ Heavy Words, Lightly Thrown: The Reason Behind the Rhyme, pages 175-176.

Lesson #194: The More Disturbing Second Verse

A friend of mine back in the southern state where I used to live sent me this link today and I found it really interesting. Of these lesser known second verses to popular children’s songs, I actually knew two of them.* Some of them are really kind of disturbing — like My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean and Oh My Darling Clementine. Some of them I find really entertaining — like the later verses of London Bridge.

*Oh My Darling Clementine and totally unsurprisingly all the verses of Alouette — pauvre alouette, sans plumes!

Lesson #63: Sealing Wax

I’m about to admit to something ridiculous. Follow me, won’t you?

Autobiographical note: You know the (utterly heartbreaking) children’s song (potentially about an opium addiction), Puff, the Magic Dragon? Of course you do; everyone in the English speaking world knows that song. There’s a bit in that about how the boy would take the dragon things like “strings and sealing wax and other fancy stuff.” And for the longest time — seriously, I was well past college before it dawned on me — I was sure that it was ceiling wax.*

I’m just going to assume you know the purpose of sealing wax and move along.

Sealing wax was first used in the middle ages and was a colourless mixture of beeswax and a substance called Venice turpentine, an extract of the Larch tree.** Later, (though I can’t get a date on exactly when with the sources I have at my fingertips, but sometime before the 16th century,) vermilion was put into use to colour the wax red. From the 16th century, the wax was no longer wax, but composed of varying levels of shellac, turpentine, resin, chalk and/or plaster, depending on what it was being used to seal, and coloured red — though by the mid 19th century, a variety of colours, including gold, blue and black, were available.***

A fun side fact: Up until 2003, extradition requests between the US and UK were still sealed with wax and a ribbon.

*Whatever, I was like 5 when I first heard it. What did I know of sealing wax at the age of 5? And in my defence, it’s not like I thought awfully hard on this. Ever. Or sat around listening to Sharon, Lois and Bram after the age of 8. It was more one of those things that sealing wax came up — as it so often does**** — and the song crossed my mind and I went, “I’m an idiot!

**In other news, turpentine is a derived from the plant resin of coniferous trees. I did not know that. It also, apparently, was, and in some cases still is, used for medical purposes.

***More information can be found here and here.

****Okay, I was likely re-reading Lewis Carroll’s The Walrus and the Carpenter.