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A Penny for a Bit of Trivia

January 19, 1996

Although children are taught that the lyrics of "Pop Goes the Weasel," refer to an animal being chased around by a mischievous monkey, the original English song referred to pawnbrokers, according to the book "God Bless Pawnbrokers," by Peter Schwed.

When the song was written in 1853, "pop" meant to hock or pawn. "Weasel" was slang for the heavy iron used for pressing garments, a valuable item at the time.

Some sample lyrics:

A penny for a spool of thread

A penny for a needle

That's the way the money goes--

Pop goes the weasel

Potatoes for an Irishman's taste

The doctor for the measles

That's the way the money goes--

Pop goes the weasel

Up and down the City Road

In and Out the Eagle [pub or music hall]

That's the way the money goes--

Pop goes the weasel!"

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