June 14th is Pop Goes The Weasel Day! Finally, Lyrics!

jack in the box toy pop goes the weasel day

Today, June 14, is Pop Goes the Weasel Day. We know, we know: You’re angry because we didn’t tell you sooner. That’s our fault, and we apologize. Now you’re worried because you’re not prepared. But that’s okay; we’re here for you. First of all, in order to properly celebrate, you have to know the history of the rhyme we all heard growing up because, despite its association with childhood, not many actually know what the song means.

So, what do we know for sure? We know that this rhyme dates back to the 1700s in England, but the first official copy was recorded in 1855. Apparently, this wasn’t just a childhood rhyme back in the good ol’ days; it was played not only in dance halls and the theater, but also at Queen’s events. Who knew? Just imagine the Queen of England — which, around that time, was Queen Victoria — getting her groove on to Pop! Goes the Weasel. We’ll take a few moments to let that sink in. The tune’s popularity then made the jump across the ocean, appearing in a Boston newspaper in 1858.

If you had to recite the lyrics right now, what would they be? We’re thinking you’d sing the following version (if any version at all):

All around the mulberry bush,
The monkey chased the weasel.
The monkey thought it was all in fun,
Pop! Goes the weasel.

A penny for a spool of thread,
A penny for a needle.
That’s the way the money goes,
Pop! Goes the weasel.

What you probably don’t know, however, is that this isn’t the original. It’s definitely the most widely used, but the original would probably look something more like this:

Half a pound of tuppenny rice,
Half a pound of treacle.
That’s the way the money goes,
Pop! Goes the weasel.

Up and down the City Road,
In and out the Eagle.
That’s the way the money goes,
Pop! Goes the weasel.

When we first looked at this, we had no idea what was going on. What do weasels have to do with rice, money, and Eagles-with-a-capital-E? There’s an explanation, we promise. This English version is said to be in reference to how easily one’s money flies out of their wallet. Wait, what? Okay, we get the references to money, at least: Food takes up a lot of a family’s budget. That makes sense. And, with a little research, we learned that the Eagle is a pub on City Road it London. That makes sense, too. But, again, what weasel is popping here? Is that something they do frequently?

It’s not, for the record. We don’t even know what that would look like. The phrase, it seems, is derived from Cockney slang.  “Weasel,” in this case, is short for “weasel and stout,” which refers to the suit coat they wore for church on Sundays. “Pop,” on the other hand, was known to stand for the act of pawning goods. So, when a person would spend all their money — on, say, food for the family and beer at the pub — they would have to pawn their coat. Or, in other words, they’d have to pop their weasel. Hey, haven’t we heard that somewhere before? And, just as a fun fact, men normally popped their weasels on Monday and, after they were paid later that week, they would go back for their coat before church on Sunday. These Brits are quite resourceful, it seems.

So, there we have it: The nursery rhyme that has traveled from generation to generation, teaching young kids and bringing families together, is about pawning your best coat.