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

Stephen Goranson goranson at DUKE.EDU
Thu Mar 16 13:21:32 EDT 2017

The Vicar of Wakefield (1766ff) includes mention of a weasel-skin purse and, elsewhere his loss of money.


From: American Dialect Society <...> on behalf of Jonathan Lighter <...>
Sent: Thursday, March 16, 2017 1:07 PM
To: ...
Subject: Re: [ADS-L] a little more on ejaculatory pop, etc.

Have we any early documentation that "weasel" was in use to mean "purse" of
weasel-skin or otherwise?

Cf. comparable U.S. "eelskin" = "eelskin purse."


On Thu, Mar 16, 2017 at 12:43 PM, ADSGarson O'Toole <
...> wrote:

> 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
> https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=https-3A__books.google.com_books-3Fid-3D-2DS0-5FAQAAMAAJ-26q-3D-25&d=DwIFaQ&c=imBPVzF25OnBgGmVOlcsiEgHoG1i6YHLR0Sj_gZ4adc&r=uUVa-8oDL2EzfbuMuowoUadHHcJ7pjul6iFkS5Pd--8&m=q655w1lR_fI7eKSqViGT7hv-5PZGFndwbPd7N7vPzLA&s=CrWFpp7aH3Atg4djSTgcaMkw9uI66EMyjTjnkfYZnQE&e=

The Cultivator & Country Gentleman<https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=https-3A__books.google.com_books-3Fid-3D-2DS0-5FAQAAMAAJ-26q-3D-25&d=DwIFaQ&c=imBPVzF25OnBgGmVOlcsiEgHoG1i6YHLR0Sj_gZ4adc&r=uUVa-8oDL2EzfbuMuowoUadHHcJ7pjul6iFkS5Pd--8&m=q655w1lR_fI7eKSqViGT7hv-5PZGFndwbPd7N7vPzLA&s=CrWFpp7aH3Atg4djSTgcaMkw9uI66EMyjTjnkfYZnQE&e=>

> 22weasel+skin%22#v=snippet&
> [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]
> Garson
> 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.

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