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Anthony Newley - Pop Goes The Weasel

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Published on Jan 27, 2009

1961 Pop Goes The Weasel/ Bee Bom (Decca F11362, reached #12 in UK) - interpretation of the nursery rhyme

Mentioned in the video (and, which is perhaps more likely for a poem from the East End of London), if "pop goes the weasel" is taken as Cockney rhyming slang, the "weasel" that goes "pop" is an item of value that the worker pawns, probably after spending the week's wages (always given on a Saturday). The "serious" Cockney uses "pop" to mean pawning or the redeeming of a pawned item, while the word "weasel" means "coat" (derived from "weasel and stoat"). Cockney slang also uses 'pop' to mean 'go away' ("Pop off!") or 'to hit' ("I'll pop you one!"). Another possibility is that "weasel" is a corruption of "whistle" and means "suit" (in this case being derived from "whistle and flute"). In either interpretation, the rhyme describes the pawning of the worker's only valuable items — the "Sunday best" clothing — after exhausting the week's wages on the food items such as rice and treacle, which, though cheap, were and are fundamentally useless to anyone if the buyer is poor and has nothing to eat them with. It is thought, however, that early "quack" doctors would have prescribed treacle as a sort of medicine, and gullible purchasing workers that were prone to illness due to exposure would doubtless have spent their savings on trying to maintain their and their children's health.

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