Mother Goose’s treasure trove of children’s rhymes have delighted the little ones for generations, but maybe we should be taking a few seconds to find out what we’re teaching our kids to say. The songs we think of as children’s songs today weren’t always for kids. Some started off as for grown-ups—and are about much more grown-up things than they seem.
10. “Sing A Song Of Sixpence” Was A Pirate Recruiting Song
Originally, “Sing A Song of Sixpence” wasn’t sung by kids—it was sung by pirates. And it wasn’t just a song. It was a coded message.
When a crew would dock into a harbor, they’d often need to hire more people. Pirates, though, can’t exactly put up a billboard advertising that they’re looking for people to rob and plunder. So, they started singing a song of sixpence whenever they wanted to let people know they were hiring.
The “sixpence” was advertising the daily pay on the ship, and “a pocket full of rye” was a promise to provide each pirate with a leather bag full of rye whiskey. The “blackbirds” were pirates, and a pie was a trap. With us, the song promised, you’ll lure rich ships into thinking you’re their friend—and then spring out and raid their riches.