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Quiz about Origins of Nursery Rhymes
Quiz about Origins of Nursery Rhymes

Origins of Nursery Rhymes Trivia Quiz


The historical origins of most nursery rhymes have been lost in the mists of time. Here are ten rhymes for you with their most commonly accepted explanations. Can you name them?

A multiple-choice quiz by Creedy. Estimated time: 4 mins.
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Author
Creedy
Time
4 mins
Type
Multiple Choice
Quiz #
369,997
Updated
Dec 03 21
# Qns
10
Difficulty
Average
Avg Score
6 / 10
Plays
1273
Awards
Top 35% Quiz
Last 3 plays: Guest 174 (1/10), panagos (9/10), donkeehote (10/10).
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Question 1 of 10
1. This nursery rhyme is associated with a form of public punishment and humiliation dating right back to the Middle Ages. Can you name it? Hint


Question 2 of 10
2. Performed by many singers in modern times, this sweet old nursery rhyme, in a version performed by Burl Ives, found itself nominated for an Academy Award in 1949. What is it? Hint


Question 3 of 10
3. This nursery rhyme is believed by some to be about Mary Queen of Scots who was hounded by the Protestant reformer, John Knox. Which rhyme is it? Hint


Question 4 of 10
4. This nursery rhyme dates back to an old superstition about bringing good or bad luck upon oneself. What is its name? Hint


Question 5 of 10
5. This old rhyme is based on a true event which took place in Boston in 1830. Can you name it? Hint


Question 6 of 10
6. "London Bridge is Falling Down" is also based on real life events. How was the estuary of England's River Thames crossed before the very first London Bridge was constructed? Hint


Question 7 of 10
7. The old nursery rhyme "A Wise Old Owl" was later used by the US army during the Second World War as a reminder to its soldiers to keep quiet about wartime activities.


Question 8 of 10
8. This nursery rhyme is said to be based on the exploits, or otherwise, of one of England's kings in the events leading up to the 1746 Battle of Culloden. Can you name it? Hint


Question 9 of 10
9. Which of the following nursery rhymes is said to be based on the persecution of Catholic priests during the days of the English 16th century reformation of the church? Hint


Question 10 of 10
10. The most commonly accepted explanation for this nursery rhyme is one based on a form of sport during Elizabethan times. Can you name it? Hint



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Quiz Answer Key and Fun Facts
1. This nursery rhyme is associated with a form of public punishment and humiliation dating right back to the Middle Ages. Can you name it?

Answer: Little Bo Peep

This nursery rhyme tells the sorrowful tale of a little shepherdess who has lost her sheep and cannot locate them. They eventually find their own way back home again. Historically the expression "bo peep" has been found recorded as far back as the 14th century, when it was a term used for the punishment of being placed in a pillory. This was a public form of humiliation and punishment for those who had broken the law, or who had displeased the authorities in some way. A pillory was a hinged device with holes cut in it for the offender's head and arms to be placed, before the top half was then locked down for the duration of the punishment. Because it was so uncomfortable, this form of chastisement usually only lasted a few hours, but in that time, because the pillory was normally placed on a raised platform in the centre of town, offenders were taunted and jeered at by people passing by, and often had rotten fruit, vegetables, mud and other unpleasant objects thrown at them.

The use of the pillory as a form of punishment was abolished in Britain in 1837, but was still used in parts of the United States up to 1901. Interestingly, if the passing crowd disapproved of the punishment and saw the criminal as a hero of sorts, they were known to toss flowers instead.
2. Performed by many singers in modern times, this sweet old nursery rhyme, in a version performed by Burl Ives, found itself nominated for an Academy Award in 1949. What is it?

Answer: Lavender Blue

This folk song and nursery rhyme, occasionally also known as "Lavender's Blue", can be dated back to the 17th century where the original words, printed on a broadsheet of the times, were somewhat more vulgar than the sweet ones we know today. Not only is today's rhyme a soft and tender celebration of love, it has also, in its melodic form, been performed by quite a few well known performers.

A few of these include Burl Ives (whose version, in the 1949 film "So Dear to My Heart", was nominated for an Oscar), Dinah Shore, Danny Kaye, David Bowie, The Wiggles (a rather lovely rendition), Laura Wright and Alyse Black.
3. This nursery rhyme is believed by some to be about Mary Queen of Scots who was hounded by the Protestant reformer, John Knox. Which rhyme is it?

Answer: Little Miss Muffet

This rhyme relates the story of a girl who has settled herself down to consume a meal of curds and whey - which is somewhat akin to what we would recognise as a tasteless form of cottage cheese - when all of a sudden a huge spider appears and frightens her away.

It's hard to find the origins of many of these quaint old rhymes, but this one is believed by some to be a reference to Mary Queen of Scots (1542-87) who was condemned loud and long in his sermons by the Protestant reformer John Knox (1514-72) for her elaborate dresses, her love of dancing and for her Catholic faith.

After the poor frightened queen's capture and long imprisonment, this clerical soul of the milk of human kindness openly called for her execution on many occasions. Others believe the rhyme refers to a well known physician and entomologist of the time, Thomas Muffet (1553-1604), whose step-daughter, Patience, was frightened away from the table one day by one of his spiders.
4. This nursery rhyme dates back to an old superstition about bringing good or bad luck upon oneself. What is its name?

Answer: Ladybird Ladybird

There are several interpretations to the origins of this quaint rhyme which dates back to 1744. One was the belief that bad luck would come to you if you killed a ladybird, and chanting the verse would see it safely fly away instead. Another was that if the dainty ladybird landed on you and you made a wish, then, if that exquisite creature immediately flew away again, your wish would be granted.

The third related to the actual farming practice of burning fires near plants to smoke any bugs out. The ladybird would flee, unable to save her babies, that, still in their tiny grub form, were destroyed while trying to crawl to safety. How sad.

The first two versions are infinitely preferable.
5. This old rhyme is based on a true event which took place in Boston in 1830. Can you name it?

Answer: Mary Had a Little Lamb

This rhyme is based on a true incident which took place in Boston in 1830, when a young girl, Mary Sawyer, took her pet lamb to school one day following a suggestion from her brother. John Roulstone, the nephew of a local minister, was studying with the man of the cloth as part of his preparation for college exams, and went along to the school with his uncle on the day this took place.

He was so amused at the antics of the children and the lamb that he went home and wrote a poem about it. He rode his horse all the way back to the schoolhouse the following day to present it to Mary. Today in this area of the world, not far from where Mary lived, a small statue of a lamb stands in memory of this lovely story.
6. "London Bridge is Falling Down" is also based on real life events. How was the estuary of England's River Thames crossed before the very first London Bridge was constructed?

Answer: A natural causeway when the tide was low

The earliest record of this rhyme is from the 17th century. It refers to the ongoing state of disrepair, and attempts to restore, the old London Bridge. There have been several London Bridges in fact, and the current one is located just upstream of its traditional location.

It replaced an arched bridge made of stone that was built in the 19th century. That, in turn, was constructed to replace a medieval bridge more than 600 years old. Prior to that one, however, various timber London Bridges had been built and tumbled down, my fair lady.

The very earliest crossings there of the Thames had been made by man over a natural causeway that was exposed when the tide was low.
7. The old nursery rhyme "A Wise Old Owl" was later used by the US army during the Second World War as a reminder to its soldiers to keep quiet about wartime activities.

Answer: True

The earliest record of this rhyme dates back to 1875, but it is believed to be a lot older than that. Because owls are meant to symbolise wisdom, this poem was used by the United States army during the Second World War to remind soldiers to be smart and caution them not to talk about their activities. To reinforce this, it created a poster with a big-eyed own sitting on the branch of the tree with the adjusted ending of the rhyme as follows:

"A wise Old Owl sat in an oak
The more he saw the less he spoke
The less he spoke the more he heard
Soldier...be like that Old Bird!"
8. This nursery rhyme is said to be based on the exploits, or otherwise, of one of England's kings in the events leading up to the 1746 Battle of Culloden. Can you name it?

Answer: Georgie Porgie

This nursery rhyme, as with several others in this quiz, though first recorded in the middle of the nineteenth century, is believed to have been known long before this date. Several historical figures are said to have been the inspiration for Georgie Porgie or Georgy Porgy, but the one that appears to be most in favour is that relating to a Jacobite rebellion in Britain in 1745 by the Scots.

When George II heard their army was on the way down, as in "When the boys came out to play", George is said to have "ran away" to the continent for safety.

This isn't a bit true of course. George II was actually a rather brave soldier and was the last of the English kings to lead his army in battle. Additionally, though the Jacobites were indeed heading south in another of their failed attempts to claim the throne for the Stuarts, and though they had defeated one British army in the north, they failed to gain any further support. That, plus the fact that the French promptly failed to come good with their promise to help, saw the Jacobites hastily retreat back to Scotland, where they were eventually routed by George's youngest son William, in the 1746 Battle of Culloden.
9. Which of the following nursery rhymes is said to be based on the persecution of Catholic priests during the days of the English 16th century reformation of the church?

Answer: Goosey Goosey Gander

The first written record of this poem was in 1784. Some believe it is based on the events leading up to the Reformation in England when King Henry VIII (1491-1547) commenced his campaign against the Pope and the Catholic Church after he failed to gain support for his divorce from Catherine of Aragon. All that so he could justify his marriage to poor Anne Boleyn - whose unfortunate head he lopped off anyway. The more commonly accepted version however is believed to be a reference to anyone capturing a rebellious Catholic priest who was, more often than not, found sheltering in a secret room in a sympathiser's home. If that priest still refused to say prayers in English instead of the Latin that had been the practice, he was tied up and tossed down a flight of stairs. Those who harboured priests were also punished in a similar manner.

"Goosey goosey gander,
Whither shall I wander?
Upstairs and downstairs
And in my lady's chamber.
There I met an old man
Who wouldn't say his prayers,
So I took him by his left leg
And threw him down the stairs".
10. The most commonly accepted explanation for this nursery rhyme is one based on a form of sport during Elizabethan times. Can you name it?

Answer: Jack Be Nimble

This nursery rhyme has two suggested origins. The first is that it was based on an English pirate, known as Black Jack, who was an expert at eluding capture by the authorities. The second is that it is because of the old English sport of leaping over lit candles. If one could jump them successfully, without extinguishing the flames, it was said to signify good luck. One is rather inclined to think that the good luck consisted of not having your trousers catch on fire.
Source: Author Creedy

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