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We may never look at Jack and Jill the same way again

March 12, 2004|From Associated Press

LONDON — They seem innocent enough, but Jack and Jill may have become amorous as they climbed that hill for a pail of water.

And instead of a water bird, "Goosey, goosey gander" may refer to a woman of ill repute, says Chris Roberts, a social history graduate and librarian at the University of East London. Roberts has reexamined the origins of 24 popular nursery rhymes for a new book, "Heavy Words Thrown Lightly."

"The rhymes have all been well researched, but I have looked at them from a more modern, psychoanalytical perspective," he said.

Roberts said his 96-page book, published by Foot and Mouth Publications, was intended to be "a lighthearted take" on the rhyming stories and nonsense jingles that have been enjoyed by youngsters for generations.

It has long been known that many nursery rhymes, some of which experts believe date from the early 17th century, allude to contemporary events -- some of them distressing, even bloody.

But a study of published psychoanalytical texts has taken Roberts further than others in finding sexual meanings.

"Jack 'losing his crown' can be read to mean losing his virginity," he said.

"Some nursery rhymes were clearly adult rhymes that were sung to children because they were the only rhymes an adult knew," Roberts said. "Others were deliberately created as a simple way to tell children a story or give them information. Religion, sex, money and social issues are all common themes."

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