[Ads-l] ejaculatory "pop"

Peter Reitan pjreitan at HOTMAIL.COM
Tue Mar 14 17:02:48 EDT 2017

I just now thought to search the British newspaper archives for advertisements for Coulon's 1852 book in which he provides descriptions and instructions for dancing "Pop Goes the Weasel."  The earliest newspaper advertisement I found (according to the text search result snippet) was London Illustrated News, January 21, 1852.

From: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> on behalf of Robin Hamilton <robin.hamilton3 at VIRGINMEDIA.COM>
Sent: Tuesday, March 14, 2017 1:39:03 PM
Subject: Re: ejaculatory "pop"

---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
Poster:       Robin Hamilton <robin.hamilton3 at VIRGINMEDIA.COM>
Subject:      Re: ejaculatory "pop"

Continuing from John Baker's post, and Amy West's addition, the following s=
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 ph=
is linked to a dance-tune [1]. Similar links are found in printed sources i=
n the
UK in the early 1850s.

3. By 1854, words had been added to the basic phrase.  These took the form =
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 see=
m to
be particularly characteristic of American variants of the extended quatrai=

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 app=
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)interp=
at various times and places. [3]

2. Taking the phrase in isolation, as it seems fairly certain that this was=
it originated, there is no way to discriminate between a Standard English a=
nd a
Slang interpretation of the words:

     SE:   The weasel goes away.

 [pop -- SE colloquial:  OED: pop, v1, sense 3a [intr.]: To move or go some=
quickly or unexpectedly, esp. for a short time. Usu. with in, off, out, up,=
--  from 1530]

     Slang: The coat is pawned. =20

[=E2=80=9Cweasel and stoat=E2=80=9D or simply =E2=80=9Cweasel=E2=80=9D -- R=
hyming Slang, "coat";  pop -- General
Slang, "pawn"].

3.  The interpretation of the evolution and meaning of the various versions=
the song in England and America is a separate issue.  It would be more than=
if there were available a full set of the various texts.  I suspect the Opi=
[2] will focus on the earlier English variants only, but I'm guessing at th=
for the moment.

          Robin Hamilton

[1] QUOTE: 'Pop goes the weasel' - the meaning and origin of this phrase --=
origin is perhaps the easier of the two. The earliest known published versi=
on is
as the title of a dance tune. A version of the tune was published in the US=
A in
1850 - _Pop goes the Weasel for Fun and Frolic_. The text accompanying the
article calls it 'an old English dance lately revived'." --

[2] Most of the early references in WIKI are linked to Peter and Iona Opie,=
Singing Game_ (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985), pp. 216-18, which ma=
provide more detail and fuller texts (if the Opies' admirable work in _The
Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes_is anything to go by).=20

[3] Eric Partridge, _A Dictionary of Catch Phrases: British and American fr=
the Sixteenth Century to the Present Day _ (various editions) includes a fe=
lines on it, and links it to the roughly-contemporary and comparably obscur=
"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 "p=
>     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 an=
>     walks down and back up the outside and then back into place first, an=
>     then there's more walking down and back on the inside after the circl=
>     I hate this dance. I always screw up the progression because it happe=
>     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 obje=
>     > sense. "Pop Goes the Weasel" emerged in late 1852 and was an immedi=
>     > international sensation, starting in Great Britain and quickly movi=
ng to
>     > Australia and America. There is some evidence that initially it did=
>     > have words, other than the title. There was broad and early confusi=
on as
>     > to its meaning, even as more verses were being written and becoming
>     > popular. This suggests that someone came up with a nonsense phrase,=
>     > goes the weasel," that matched up to a key portion of the music, th=
>     > other people wrote words to accompany it.
>     >
>     > If there is a meaning, it probably has something to do with money. =
>     > number of the key verses refer to money, frequently including the k=
>     > 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 b=
y 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=
>     > circumference is six feet, so that 40 revolutions produces 80 yards=
>     > yarn, which is a skein. It has wooden gears inside and a cam, desig=
>     > to cause a popping sound after the 40th revolution, telling the spi=
>     > that she has completed the skein." Interesting, but I suspect it's =
>     > more than a coincidence. I think the protagonist is generally under=
>     > 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

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