[Ads-l] a little more on ejaculatory pop, etc.

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Thu Mar 16 12:43:21 EDT 2017

Peter's 1905 citation included the interesting hypothesis of a "Notes
and Queries" correspondent linking "Pop goes the weasel" to a
weasel-skin purse. Here is an earlier presentation of that linkage
although the sound of the clasp was not mentioned. (1869 is a late
date; maybe it can be pushed back.)

Date: January 21, 1869
Periodical: The Cultivator & Country Gentleman
Quote Page 62 and 63
Publisher: Luther Tucker & Son, Albany, New York
Database: Google Books Full View


[Begin excerpt]

Every one has heard the tune "Pop goes the Weasel," but it is not
every one that knows what is meant by the phrase, or how it had its
origin. Most people think it a mere unmeaning chorus, like "Hey Derry
Down," words in which sound is consulted rather than sense.

"Weasel" in this case has a meaning however, and as the word is
connected with a rather curious old country superstition, an
explanation may not prove uninteresting.

Amongst the common people of the old country, there used to be a very
prevalent idea that a purse made of weasel-skin would never get empty,
and although weasel-skin purses never became very common, yet, in
obedience to the popular superstition, a few persons have been known
to carry them. But the term "weasel" or "weasel-skin," became among
the lower orders synonymous with purse, and was at one time in quite
common use. Hence, the phrase "Pop goes the Weasel," simply signifies
"out comes your purse." Taken in connection with the rest of the song,
it will be seen that the phrase has an appropriate meaning.    X
[End excerpt]


On Thu, Mar 16, 2017 at 11:18 AM, Peter Reitan <pjreitan at hotmail.com> wrote:
> Robin Hamilton's Mudcat poster's version apparently appears in The Oxford Nursery Rhyme Book (1955) and The Annotated Mother Goose (1962).
> I ran across an explanation published in 1905, based on the writer's recollection of the 1860s, which ties together the line, "that's where the money goes", with the weasel's "pop".  That explanation also includes all three of Robin's verses.
> As I wrote in an earlier post, "that's where the money goes," was a popular song in 1840s England, and the expression was frequently used idiomatically and set apart in quotations.  The various versions of the song recited various ways people spend or waste money, frequently contrasting how poor people "waste" money on necessities and rich people spend it on luxuries.
> The first two verses provided by Robin are similar to that song, in that the first verse speaks of spending money on rice and the second verse of spending money drinking at the Eagle, which was a famous pub.  The second verse even borrows the line "that's where the money goes" from the earlier song.
> A 1905 recollection of the song suggests that "pop goes the weasel" refers to the sound made by the clasp on a weasel skin purse.
> “This phrase certainly refers to a purse made of weasel-skin, which opened and closed with a snap.  The “popping of the weasel” in the song (I believe a sort of music-hall ditty of the fifties) is the opening of the purse, and consequent spending of money, as the context shows.  “Bang went saxpence” is a verbal, not a real, parallel.”
> Notes and Queries, 10th S. III, June 24, 1905, page 491.
> To be fair, the same volume also contains other speculations, including pawning (popping) a tailor's "weasel" (a tailor's tool) to get money to drink at the Eagle tavern.
> But weasel-skin purses were, in fact, a real thing.  They were considered lucky, and the superstition held that if you had a weasel skin purse, you would always have at least a little money.  In the 1880s, it was said that, "in Iowa and Missouri such purses are so common as to give the generic name of 'weasel skin' to all manner of receptacles for coin." The Daily Morning Astorian (Oregon, March 4, 1887, page 3.
> It is possible that the original catch-phrase from the song merely related to the popping of one dancer under the arms of a couple, like a weasel popping into its den.  Weasels were said, at times, to "pop" into their dens.  A children's book published in 1850, for example, includes a poem about a child chasing a weasel who "popped" into its den with a stolen egg.
> "The Weasel, like thought, popped into his den.  The Boy was too big, or the hole was too small, So for that time escaped they, egg, Weasel and all!"
> The Child's Picture and Verse Book (Commonly called Otto Speckter's Fable Book - translated from German), New York, D. Appleton & Co., 1850, page 196.
> The later use in the "Pop Goes the Weasel" song borrowed from the theme and lyrics of the earlier "that's the way the money goes" song, with the addition of the new tune and catch-phrase from the dance, and with the added bonus of the weasel also being an allusion to a money purse.
> There was also an old idiom that was known at the time, "to catch a weasel asleep", which related to the difficulty of catching a weasel because they were so fast and restless.  And, when a weasel pops into its den, it is even more difficult to catch.
> But whatever the original meaning, it was not necessarily obvious to people at the time, as there were several early references that wondered what the "weasel" was and why it popped.
> ________________________________
> From: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> on behalf of Robin Hamilton <robin.hamilton3 at VIRGINMEDIA.COM>
> Sent: Thursday, March 16, 2017 3:57 AM
> Subject: Re: a little more on ejaculatory pop, etc.
> ---------------------- 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: a little more on ejaculatory pop, etc.
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> An Hypothetical Reconstruction of a Three-Stanza version of =E2=80=9CPop go=
> es the
> weasel=E2=80=9D.
> 1. The Rice:
> Half a pound of tuppenny rice,
> Half a pound of treacle,
> Mix it up and make it nice,
> Pop goes the weasel!
> 2. The Pub
> Up and down the City Road
> In and out of the Eagle,
> That's the way the money goes,
> Pop goes the weasel!
> 3. The Monkey
> Every night when I get home
> The monkey's on the table;
> Take a stick and knock it off,
> Pop goes the weasel!
> The above could perhaps be described as an tentative core text.
> Stanza 1: Possibly the earliest extension, with the third line originally
> reading, =E2=80=9CThat's the way the money goes=E2=80=9D. When the Rice and=
>  the Pub stanzas were
> brought together, to avoid repetition the original third line in the above
> quatrain --  "That's the way the money goes" -- was replaced by, =E2=80=9CM=
> ix it up and
> make it nice.=E2=80=9D
> Stanza 2: Probably originally a free-standing extension of the original
> catchphrase, later combined with Stanza 1.
> Stanza 3: The monkey is added later still, and possibly first appears in
> America.  Line 1 in that stanza may end either with =E2=80=9Cget home=E2=80=
> =9D [from the Eagle,
> if the stanza occurs by itself] or =E2=80=9Cgo out=E2=80=9D [to the Eagle, =
> which is the
> Necessary Variant when the three stanzas put together in sequence].
> Why no documentation to the above on my part? Well, the Opies in _The Singi=
> ng
> Game_ print the Rice and Monkey stanzas (but not the Pub stanza), but with =
> no
> source citations. A poster in the Mudcat forum
> [http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=3D3183] gives the three stanzas
> more-or-less as I provide them above, citing _Denslow's Mother Goose_ (1901=
> ),
> but curse me if I can find them there
> [https://www.gutenberg.org/files/18546/18546-h/18546-h.htm].
> Who am I supposed to believe, the Mudcat poster or my lying eyes?
> Anyway, I proffer the above, for what it=E2=80=99s worth, as a possible sta=
> rting point
> for an exploration of the textual development of the catchphrase, =E2=80=9C=
> Pop goes the
> weasel=E2=80=9D.
> Robin Hamilton, a.k.a. Frustrated In Darlington
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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