Here’s a recent conversation in our house in reference to a popular nursery rhyme:
Bear: Dad, why do they sing a song about six pants?
Dad: Well, actually sweetie, they’re saying sixpence. Pence is a name for money that was used back in the old days.
Bear: (indignantly) No Dad! They’re saying six PANTS!
Dad: OK, well, yeah…
Rather than launch into a heated debate about the alleged appearance of archaic foreign currency in a children’s rhyme, I figured I could probably just let this one slide for now. Especially considering the subsequent content of this rhyme. I mean, if she starts asking me why or how four and 20 blackbirds get baked into a pie, I’m in real trouble. But then I started wondering just what the deal is with this rhyme. Surely, it’s all just fantasy, right?
Wrong. My curiosity got the best of me, and after consulting Wikipedia I uncovered a bit of disturbing information. “It is known that a 16th century amusement was to place live birds in a pie” in such a way that the birds might “flie out when it is cut up.” Apparently cookbooks from this time period even described the procedures for making this happen. It’s reading stuff like this that makes me extra happy to be living in the 21st century. This is the scene I’m picturing:
16th Century Man #1: ‘Twas a jolly good fox hunt, eh, my good man?
16th Century Man #2: ‘Twas indeed! However, upon completing this spot of tea, I haven’t the slightest notion of what we shall do to occupy our time henceforth.
16CM#1: Ah yes. A conundrum indeed. Perhaps we could, and hear me out on this, procure some fowl and then insert them into a baked good of sorts.
16CM#2: Aha… interesting. And it is your estimation that the birds would then fly out of the baked good at the moment it is sliced into pieces for serving?
16CM#2: Why, I think it’s a splendid idea! We could utilize a pie of sorts. I’ll wager we could fit four and possibly 20 more blackbirds into such a dessert!
16CM#1: Marvelous! To the shed for the bird traps, my good fellow!
I suppose I shouldn’t be so quick to make fun. Just you wait. Somebody living in the 26th century will be ridiculing me for blogging in my spare time.