Origin of nursery rhymes
Posted by Brian from Shawee on February 11, 2005
In Reply to: Origin of nursery rhymes posted by Shae on February 09, 2005
: : : Hello. I've heard there are some very old songs that children sing to this day without realizing that (by today's standards) may be prejudicial. My young daughter was watching a popular children's show (The Wiggles) and they sang a song with lyrics in part "Brown girl in the ring.....she looks like a sugar and a plum". I can't help but wonder if this had an alternative meaning.
: : : Also -Is there a website that lists some of the songs I'm talking about. Thank You -
: : You're quite right. Many nursery rhymes have an unexpected and often sinister aspect to them. However, I think Brown Girl in the Ring is simply a children's song.
: : You can search on Google for 'nursery rhymes history'. One site you could try is www.rhymes.org.uk which includes Lost Lyrics and the Secret History of Nursery Rhymes.
: Gina said her daughter sang 'she looks like a sugar and a plum' and I had always understood Boney M's version of the song to say 'she looks like a sugar in the plum.' The Mondagreen lightbulb flashed, so I googled.
: There seems to be different wordings: 'She looks like a sugar and a plum; 'She looks like a sugar in a plum; 'She likes sugar, I like plum.'
: 'A "ring game" is a game that is played by children who form a circle (the "ring"). The old time definition of "ring" is still used in the terms "boxing ring" and "wrestling ring". In the sports of boxing and wrestling, the focus of the action is in the center of the roped off area. In the same way, the focus of the action in ring games is in the center of the ring. Most traditional ring games (circle games) start with one player standing inside the center of the circle. The other children forming the ring are expected to sing and clap their hands at the same time, but the center player is not expected to sing. However, at a certain point in the song, the center person is called upon to perform a dance step or some other "motion". In traditional versions of ring games, after performing a "motion", the center player selects a partner and dances in the center of the ring with him or her. If a girl is the center player, she is expected to select a boy as her partner, and vice versa. The player who was selected then becomes the new center player and the former center player rejoins the children forming the ring.'
We had a "Wee Sing" tape of international children's songs, and Brown Girl in a Ring was listed as being from Guyana, which may simply indicate it's popular in Guyana rather than that it originated there. But I remember the lyric as "She likes sugar, I like rum". I know it was "rum" because it got my attention. I can't find the Wee Sing version on-line anywhere and unfortunately the tape was mangled years ago.