paper of/and pins

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Mon Mar 2 17:43:22 UTC 2009

The oldest ex. I know of is in James Orchard Halliwell's_The Nursery Rhymes
of England_ (London: John Russell Smith, 1846), p. 229f, but it is not
exactly the modern form. E.g.,

Oh, madam, I will give you the keys of Canterbury,
To set all the bells ringing when we shall be merry,
If you will but walk abroad with me,
If you will but walk with me.

Sir, I 'll not accept of the keys of Canterbury,
To set all the bells ringing when we shall be merry;
Neither will I walk abroad with thee;
Neither will I talk [sic] with thee! ...
Eventually "my man John" suggests offering the "key to your chest," and,
wouldn't you know it, that does the trick!

The _Journal of American Folklore_ printed the "paper of pins" couplet in
1891 as an ex. of the sort of children's song people should be collecting.

The rest is silence, which suggests a pre-PIE substrate of pagan ritual.


On Mon, Mar 2, 2009 at 11:20 AM, Arnold Zwicky <zwicky at> wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Arnold Zwicky <zwicky at STANFORD.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: paper of/and pins
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> On Mar 2, 2009, at 8:02 AM, Barbara Need wrote:
> > Arnold,
> >
> > I don't know this particular song, but I am familiar with a paper of
> > pins. It is a sheet of paper with pins stuck through it. I don't know
> > if they come that way anymore, but I certainly remember using pins
> > stuck through a piece of paper. The paper had been folded so that the
> > pins had little ridges to go through, and I remember being very
> > careful to put the pins back through the holes.
> ah, that makes sense.  i'm familiar with needles treated this way, but
> it would make sense for pins to be similarly treated.
> i'm not sure why pins would be an inducement to marriage.  but the
> inducements do start small and then escalate: a feathery bed with a
> downy pillow, then (in one version) "my house, my money, my wedding
> ring".
> arnold
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list