Friday, May 7, 2021

Cobbler’s bench or mulberry bush?

The things we debate in our fambly. Everyone else knows “Pop Goes the Weasel” as beginning with “All around the cobbler’s bench.” I, like the cheese, stand alone: I’ve always know the song as beginning with “All around the mulberry bush.” Both versions are fine, of course. That’s the folk process. But which is more common, the bench or the bush?

The bush, I suspect. Google’s Ngram Viewer has no results for “All around the cobbler’s bench” in American English or British English, 1900–2000. The Viewer does have results for “round the cobbler’s bench” in American English, which makes me think that “Round and round the cobbler’s bench,” not “All around,” is the more usual phrasing. (Why the shortened search? Because the Viewer won’t search for more than a five-word string.)

The Straight Dope says that in North America, the bush is more common that the bench, and that in the United Kingdom, “All around the cobbler’s bench” is the usual phrasing. Which, I’d say, makes its absence from Ngram results for British English puzzling. But not more puzzling than “Pop Goes the Weasel” itself, whose words I refuse to reduce to meaningful paraphrase.

As for Google itself:

“round and round the cobbler’s bench” weasel : 1,140 results

“all around the cobbler’s bench” weasel : 2,040 results

“all around the mulberry bush” weasel : 225,000 results
I added the word weasel to the searches to rule out results concerning gardening or shoemaking. And now I am off to wind, wind, wind the bobbin.

comments: 8

Fresca said...

mulberry bush

Chris said...

It must be mulberry bush -- it was a Jeopardy answer tonight.

Michael Leddy said...

That’s wonderful — thanks for letting me know, Chris.

Elaine said...

Round and round the mulberry bush....even though they are trees.

Michael Leddy said...

The Elaine here, too, pointed out that it’s a tree, and that it would be highly improbable to chase around one. I asked her if a cobbler’s bench would do any better. : )

Richard Abbott said...

As a Brit, I have to say that I had never heard of the cobbler's bench idea, and until I read further down your article I just assumed it was an Americanism :)

Richard Abbott said...

In fact, the version I know best has nothing to do with mulberry bushes or cobblers, but is a searing social commentary on the evils of rapacious banking combined with a drinking habit (all dressed up as a nursey rhyme...)

Half a pound of tuppenny rice
Half a pound of treacle
That's the way the money goes
Pop goes the weasel

Up and down the city road
In and out of the eagle
That's the way the money goes
Pop goes the weasel

The mulberry bush appears in a very different nursery rhyme to do with cold and frosty mornings!

Michael Leddy said...

Very interesting. I know the cold and frosty morning from “Three Craw.” These songs seem to be blending into one another.