Posted by R. Berg on October 24, 2006
In Reply to: Rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief posted by Victoria S Dennis on October 23, 2006
: : "Rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief." Where did this phrase come from?
: It's a traditional counting rhyme. Children would pile all the prune stones, cherry stones or similar things from their dessert at the edge of the plate, then count them up using the rhyme to divine what their occupation would be when they grew up - or, in the case of girls, what their husband's occupation would be. The whole rhyme is:
: Tinker, tailor,
: Soldier, sailor,
: Rich man, poor man,
: Beggar man, thief.
I remember this version: "Rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief, / Doctor, lawyer, Indian chief." It sounds so familiar that it might be in Mother Goose, on which I learned to read. I didn't know it was a counting rhyme. ~rb