[Ads-l] ejaculatory "pop"

Tue Mar 14 17:02:31 EDT 2017

Wow, some nice work on this by Amy, Peter, Robin, and Garson.  I love seeing the historical understanding of something like this come together.

It seems like there is enough material here for a nice publishable paper, if someone wanted to bring this through to completion. And, since there is a lot of public interest in the song, it could well be followed up with something more mass market, perhaps an article in Slate or the like. 

John Baker

> On Mar 14, 2017, at 4:40 PM, Robin Hamilton <robin.hamilton3 at VIRGINMEDIA.COM> wrote:
> Continuing from John Baker's post, and Amy West's addition, the following seems
> to me a plausible outline of the sequence of events.
> 1. A popular dance tune existed, probably in the late eighteenth century or
> earlier, unnamed and with no connection to the later Popped Weasel.
> 2. The first documented connection appears in America in 1850, where the phrase
> is linked to a dance-tune [1]. Similar links are found in printed sources in the
> UK in the early 1850s.
> 3. By 1854, words had been added to the basic phrase.  These took the form of
> quatrains, with the fourth line refrain consisting of, "Pop goes the weasel"
> [2].  The commonest set (possibly the earliest) is the English version
> beginning, "Half a pound of tuppeny rice ..."
> 4. The cobbler and the monkey are first recorded in Boston in 1858, and seem to
> be particularly characteristic of American variants of the extended quatrains.
> This suggests to me several things:
> 1.  Whether or not the phrase existed before it was attached to an
> already-existing tune, or was crafted to go with the tune, it initially appeared
> in isolation, and any interpretation of it has to discount later accretions, or
> treat these accretions simply as evidence of how the phrase was (mis)interpreted
> at various times and places. [3]
> 2. Taking the phrase in isolation, as it seems fairly certain that this was how
> it originated, there is no way to discriminate between a Standard English and a
> Slang interpretation of the words:
>     SE:   The weasel goes away.
> [pop -- SE colloquial:  OED: pop, v1, sense 3a [intr.]: To move or go somewhere
> quickly or unexpectedly, esp. for a short time. Usu. with in, off, out, up, etc.
> --  from 1530]
>     Slang: The coat is pawned.  
> [“weasel and stoat” or simply “weasel” -- Rhyming Slang, "coat";  pop -- General
> Slang, "pawn"].
> 3.  The interpretation of the evolution and meaning of the various versions of
> the song in England and America is a separate issue.  It would be more than nice
> if there were available a full set of the various texts.  I suspect the Opies
> [2] will focus on the earlier English variants only, but I'm guessing at this
> for the moment.
>          Robin Hamilton
> [1] QUOTE: 'Pop goes the weasel' - the meaning and origin of this phrase -- "The
> origin is perhaps the easier of the two. The earliest known published version is
> as the title of a dance tune. A version of the tune was published in the USA in
> 1850 - _Pop goes the Weasel for Fun and Frolic_. The text accompanying the
> article calls it 'an old English dance lately revived'." --
> http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/pop-goes-the-weasel.html
> [2] Most of the early references in WIKI are linked to Peter and Iona Opie, _The
> Singing Game_ (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985), pp. 216-18, which may
> provide more detail and fuller texts (if the Opies' admirable work in _The
> Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes_is anything to go by). 
> [3] Eric Partridge, _A Dictionary of Catch Phrases: British and American from
> the Sixteenth Century to the Present Day _ (various editions) includes a few
> lines on it, and links it to the roughly-contemporary and comparably obscure,
> "Has your mother sold her mangle?"
>>    It was a popular dance in the 1860s. I've done it at vintage dances.
>>    It's a set dance (I think I'm using that term correctly). General
>>    description of the dance: 2 lines of dancers facing each other. Top
>>    couple is active: they take hands, grab hands with lady, circle 2 1/2
>>    times, when she's facing her space, the top couple raise hands and "pop"
>>    her back into her place (by pushing her under the arch of their hands).
>>    Repeat with the gent. Oh, crap, I forgot, the top couple casts off and
>>    walks down and back up the outside and then back into place first, and
>>    then there's more walking down and back on the inside after the circling.
>>    I hate this dance. I always screw up the progression because it happens
>>    at an odd place in the dance. And our practice music was plinky banjo
>> music.
>>    I have no idea if you can find video of the vintage dance on YouTube.
>>    You might.
>>    ---Amy West
>>>    On 3/14/17 12:00 AM, ADS-L automatic digest system wrote:
>>> Date: Mon, 13 Mar 2017 21:34:52 +0000
>>> From: "Baker, John"<JBAKER at STRADLEY.COM>
>>> Subject: Re: ejaculatory "pop"
>>> Probably the "weasel" doesn't mean anything, in any reasonable objective
>>> sense. "Pop Goes the Weasel" emerged in late 1852 and was an immediate
>>> international sensation, starting in Great Britain and quickly moving to
>>> Australia and America. There is some evidence that initially it did not
>>> have words, other than the title. There was broad and early confusion as
>>> to its meaning, even as more verses were being written and becoming
>>> popular. This suggests that someone came up with a nonsense phrase, "pop
>>> goes the weasel," that matched up to a key portion of the music, then
>>> other people wrote words to accompany it.
>>> If there is a meaning, it probably has something to do with money. A
>>> number of the key verses refer to money, frequently including the key
>>> line, "That's the way the money goes."
>>> Wikipedia suggests the possibility of a connection to a spinner's
>>> weasel: "A spinner's weasel consists of a wheel which is revolved by the
>>> spinner in order to measure off thread or yarn after it has been
>>> produced on the spinning wheel. 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." Interesting, but I suspect it's no
>>> more than a coincidence. I think the protagonist is generally understood
>>> to be a male cobbler, not a female spinner.
>>> John Baker
>>    ------------------------------------------------------------
>>    The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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