Nursery Rhymes Meanings

Traditional nursery rhymes have been a part of our growing years and especially for our grandparents and other members of the family tree for decades. Sometimes it is good to re-examine the meaning of these traditional nursery rhymes.

Many vintage nursery rhymes go back to England, even during the Middle Ages (500 AD to 1500 AD). The whole purpose was to use these rhymes so the youngsters could learn morals and remember history.

For example – here is “Little Miss Muffet”

Little Miss Muffet Sat on a tuffet, Eating her curds and whey; There came a big spider, Who sat down beside her And frightened Miss Muffet away.

The meaning: A tuffet is a small stool. Curds and whey is a snack once very popular, which was made from the by-products of homemade cheese production. It’s very similar to cottage cheese and sometimes served with jam or sugar on top or even just salt and pepper.

The House that Jack Built” –

This is the house that Jack built. This is the malt that lay in the house that Jack built.

This is the rat that ate the malt that lay in the house that Jack built.

The meaning: In this case malt refers to processed grain seeds and the term is related to our modern product of malted milk. Grain seeds (usually barley) are first dried, then partially germinated, then dried again and kept until ready to use. The process activates enzymes in the seeds which convert the carbohydrates into simpler sugars, to then be used to sweeten foods. Malt is used to make both beer and whiskey.

Another nursery rhyme “Maiden” related:

This is the maiden all forlorn, That milked the cow with the crumpled horn

That tossed the dog that worried the cat

That killed the rat that ate the malt

That lay in the house that Jack built.

The Meaning: The maiden above refers to a dairymaid. They were called maids since they were employees of the farm or manor and equal to maids that worked in the house. They were usually responsible for not only milking the cows, but processing at least some of the milk into butter, cheese, whey, and other products. Sometimes dairymaid is corrupted into “maiden”.

Check and see if any relatives still have their nursery rhyme booklets. It would be interesting to explore the stories your ancestors read.

Photo: Vintage design of “Little Miss Muffet”

Related Blogs:

Children’s Games of Your Ancestors

Children as Warriors

Dick and Jane Books

< Return To Blog

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.