Pop Goes the Weasel

A Child’s Song, a Jig–Pop Goes the Weasel

Looking over my list of tunes in the Fiddle Tune Directory, I see a shortage of real beginner tunes. Pop Goes the Weasel is a tune requested by my younger students. It’s a jig, it’s a children’s song, but it isn’t easy. And yet, because it is so well known, it can be approachable by beginners.

Pop Goes Weasel

Let me toss in the link to the pdf file. And now continue with a little background for the song.

All around the mulberry bush,
The monkey chased the weasel.
The monkey thought that it was a joke
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.
Jimmy’s got the whooping cough
And Timmy’s got the measles.
That’s the way the story goes,
Pop! goes the weasel.

It goes something like that, right? Unless you are in the United Kingdom. Their version is mostly like the way I first heard the song as sung by Anthony Newley in Stop the World I Want to Get Off.

Half a pound of tupenny rice,
Half a pound of treacle.
Mix it up and make it nice,
Pop! goes the weasel

Every night when I get home
The monkey’s on the table,
Take a stick and knock it off,
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.

The Wikipedia article tells us that the song was originally a dance tune written in the early 1850’s. It was hugely popular. Words were added later. And the meaning of them has not been totally agreed on.

Just think about the cost of “half a pound of tupenny rice.” A penny, right. Rice going for two cents a pound. Talk about low prices!

Treacle is either molasses or a mixture of molasses and corn syrup. If the rice is cooked and mixed with the treacle, it’s a kind of rice pudding, I suppose.

Further into the song it gets a little more obscure. The “weasel” is part of a thread spinning machine. As the article writes, “The weasel is usually built so that the circumference is six feet, so that 40 revolutions produces 80 yards of yarn, which is a skein. It has wooden gears inside and a cam, designed to cause a popping sound after the 40th revolution, telling the spinner that she has completed the skein.”

We are not told the price of 80 yards of yarn. Do you suppose it’s a penny? Or in barter, you give me 80 yards of yarn, I’ll give you half a pound of rice. Now, those were the good old days.

As to getting up and playing the song as a jig, and why not, that’s what it was originally. The plan in the tab chart includes a left hand pluck on the E string for the “Pop” of the Weasel. I usually use my pinkie.

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