phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

Home | Search the website Search | Discussion Forum Home|

Ring a ring a roses

Posted by Victoria S Dennis on May 03, 2010 at 20:03

In Reply to: Ring a ring a roses posted by David FG on May 03, 2010 at 11:18:

: : Ring a ring a roses has been discredited for the bubonic plague. However has anyone considered it for smallpox?

: : Smallpox produces a rash i.e "ring a roses". It's symptoms are described as "flu like" which involves sneezing "atishoo atishoo". It also had a high mortality rate, especially among the young. "We all fall down"

: : Edward Jenner vaccinated against smallpox using cowpox. The English version as its second verse "cows in the meadow eating buttercups, atishhoo atishoo, we all jump up."

: I would suggest that the same objections apply to this theory as apply to the plague idea. The 'atishoo' bit is not universal for one thing: there are many versions which don't have it.

: And sneezing is not a symptom of Smallpox.


This rhyme isn't about any kind of illness. There are literally dozens if not scores of variations on it which can't be shoehorned into fitting this idea. (E.g. the earliest version known - far older than the one now current - goes:
"Ring a ring a rosie,
A bottle full of posie,
All the girls in our town
Ring for little Josie."
Or this:
"Round the ring of roses,
Pots full of posies,
The one who stoops last
shall tell whom she loves best."

All the oldest versions - and the foreign versions, of which there are many - suggest that the end of the song originally entailed a bow or curtsy, which only in the later 19th century was corrupted to "falling down". (VSD)