Can You Still Sing These Childhood Nursery Rhymes?

EDUCATION

Jonnathan Chadwick

7 Min Quiz

Image: hartoworld / DigitalVision Vectors / Getty Images

About This Quiz

Longevity is the true barometer of the quality and popularity of a certain song. A song that becomes a No. 1 hit in 2019 might be forgotten by the end of 2019. An artist can release a hit song just because they're really good at tweeting, but we live in a society where today's hit song could be tomorrow's elevator music. Can you even remember what the most popular song of 2018 was? 

What can't be denied is the popularity of music that went viral in the pen-and-paper days. And when we say pen and paper we mean the bird-feather-and-tree-bark days. Tweeting meant sending a message to someone via carrier pigeon. The Facebook news feed was some kid standing in the middle of town yelling, "Extra! Extra! Read all about it." And yet, in a world where it took a year for news to spread around the world, there were songs that went viral and stayed viral - for centuries. They were called nursery rhymes, and everybody knows at least one. Before Donald Trump there was Old King Cole. Before the floss or the dab, there was the ring-around-the-rosie and the rock-a-bye-baby. The Muffin Man delivered groceries before Postmates, and before the country fought for marriage equality, the dish ran away with the spoon.

Needless to say, your favorite nursery rhyme heroes were doing cool things before they were cool. Their actions were recorded by Mother Goose and Tommy Thumb, and to keep track of everything, folklore expert Steve Roud created an index of 250,000 references to 25,000 songs collected from all over the world. Let's see how many of them you can remember.

If you're happy and you know it, ________

"If you're Happy and You Know It" is a repetitive children's song that became popular sometime in the 1950s and can take on a variety of lyrics. If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands, but you can also stomp your feet, slap your legs, pat your head or even honk your nose.

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Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty ________

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall, which makes sense because he was an egg and didn't balance well on the top of a wall. This nursery rhyme dates back all the way to the late 1700s, but its exact origin isn't known. Did you know that nowhere in the song does it say he's an egg?

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Twinkle, twinkle, little star, how I wonder what you are, up above the world so high, ________

The little star was twinkling above the world so high like a diamond in the sky. The nursery rhyme originated in 1806 in London and was written by poet Jane Taylor. Diamonds themselves didn't really become popular until more than a century later.

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Jack and Jill went up the hill ________; Jack fell down and broke his crown, and Jill came tumbling after

Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water. The terms "Jack" and "Jill" originated in the 1500s to identify a boy and a girl. Shakespeare even used the phrase in his comedy "A Midsummer Night's Dream," which was written in 1596.

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Baa, baa, black sheep, ________? Yes sir, yes sir; three bags full

Baa, baa black sheep, have you any wool? This popular nursery rhyme dates back to at least 1731 and its meaning isn't fully known, but theories have caused quite the controversy. It's been linked to everything from a tax on wool in the 1200s to civil rights in the 1980s.

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The itsy bitsy spider went up the water spout, down came the rain ________

The itsy bitsy spider (or if you're British or Australian, the incey wincey spider) went up the water spout and when they rain came down, the spider got washed out. That's what's supposed to happen. This is a popular rhyme dating back to 1910 and is usually sung along with a lot of hand gestures.

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Little Miss Muffet, sat on a tuffet, ________; Along came a spider, Who sat down beside her, and frightened Miss Muffet away

Miss Muffet ate curds and whey. The rhyme dates back to at least 1805, and some say it has something to do with Mary Queen of Scots, but that can't be proved. It's one of the most popular rhymes about one of the least popular foods.

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Hickory dickory dock! The mouse ran up the clock; ________, Hickory, dickory, dock!

The clock struck one and the mouse ran down. Why did the mouse do this? We don't know, but we haven't known what the point of this rhyme has been for almost 300 years since it first appeared in 1744. The mouse, we believe, is safe.

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There was a farmer who had a dog,________

Bingo was the dog's name in this popular song that originated in Scotland sometime in the 18th century. There are plenty of varieties of the song that change the dog's name from Bingo to Jingo, Ringo or Stingo.

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Head, shoulders, knees and toes - knees and toes - and ________. Head, shoulders, knees and toes - knees and toes.

Eyes and ears and mouth and nose is the missing part of this rhyme, which dates back to the 1950s and children usually touch the corresponding body part when they sing along to the rhyme. There is an eventual end to the song, but the rules are somewhat complicated.

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Hey diddle diddle, the cat and the fiddle, the ________. The little dog laughed to see such sport, and the dish ran away with the spoon

"Hey Diddle Diddle" is the official name of this song where a cow jumps over a moon. Nobody knows who Diddle was or why the cow jumped over the moon, but theories do say drawings of a cat playing a fiddle date back more than 1,000 years.

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Hush, little baby, don’t say a word, ________

In the lullaby "Hush, Little Baby" papa promises to buy the baby a mockingbird. This is a popular song sung to children who, hopefully, don't remember being promised to get a mockingbird, a diamond ring, a billy goat, a dog named Rover and a horse.

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I’m a little teapot, short and stout, ________

In this song, an anthropomorphic teapot points out its handle and spout. This song dates back to 1939, and the reason it was created isn't entirely unknown (shocker), but teaching little kids how to boil tea is not the smartest thing to do.

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Mary had a little lamb, little lamb, little lamb. Mary had a little lamb, ________

Mary's little lamb had a fleece as white as snow. This rhyme dates back to 1830s Boston, MA and legend has it that this nursery rhyme was based on a true story about a girl named Mary who had a little lamb.

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Old MacDonald had a farm, E I E I O, ________, E I E I O

Old MacDonald had a lot of animals on his farm (it was a farm after all) and one of them was a cow. The verses in this rhyme are cumulative, with each verse introducing a new animal sound, so - if you're brave enough to sing the entire thing - by the song's end, you'll be surrounded by a bunch of little kids making animal sounds.

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Ring around the rosie, ________, ashes, ashes, we all fall down!

Legend has it that a pocket full of posies was a defense against the Black Plague. Ring around the rosie is supposed to define a rosy rash that one caught when they got the plague. And all falling down is the fact that everyone who got the plague died. Little kids love this song.

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Rock a bye baby, on the tree top, ________ the cradle will rock

When the wind blows the cradle will rock. It's said that this lullaby depicted a mother gently rocking her baby like a tree top and then gently putting them to bed. That, however, is unconfirmed, just like the meaning behind almost every nursery rhyme.

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Row, row, row your boat ________, merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily life is but a dream

The best way to row your boat is gently down the stream. Nobody wants to have to row upstream because that is quite the workout. This rhyme was first published in 1852 and is still popular to this day. Nobody knows what it means, but it rhymes.

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The wheels on the bus ________. The wheels on the bus go round and round, all through the town

The wheels on the bus go round and round. This rhyme dates back to 1939 and is popular in the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia and Canada. It's one of those songs that kids sing on the school bus repeatedly to drive teachers insane.

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This old man, he played one, he played knick-knack on my thumb, knick-knack paddy whack ________. This old man came rolling home

Not sure who, but somebody within this rhyme is supposed to give a dog a bone. This song is a popular counting rhyme that was first published in 1906 but may date back earlier than that. Each verse counts up a number and the entire song goes up to ten.

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Star light, star bright, ________, I wish I may, I wish I might, have this wish I wish tonight

The person in this song is vowing to make a wish on the first star they see that night. It would take a lot of discipline to let the first star go to somebody else and wish upon the second star, and most little kids aren't that generous.

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Oh, do you know the muffin man, the muffin man, the muffin man, oh, do you know the muffin man, ________?

Drury Lane is actually a real street in London and a real muffin man may or may not have lived there at some point. Back in the day people used to get groceries delivered to their door. The muffins in this rhyme refer to English muffins, not the muffins you're probably thinking of.

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This little piggy went to market, this little piggy stayed home, ________, This little piggy had none

It's really weird to think that out of all the foods in the world, a pig would choose to eat roast beef, but that's what the lyrics of this song say. At least he didn't choose to eat bacon or a pork chop, and it probably wasn't cool to be vegetarian back in 1728, which is when this rhyme appeared.

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Three blind mice, three blind mice, see how they run, see how they run! ________. She cut off their tails with a carving knife

The three blind mice all ran after the farmer's wife. It is unknown who the farmer or his wife are, but this rhyme was published in 1805 and dates back all the way to at least the early 17th century in other languages. Don't mess with the farmer's wife.

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This is the way we wash our face, ________. This is the way we wash our face. Early in the morning

The name of this rhyme is commonly known as "Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush," and repeated each step (wash our face, comb our hair, brush our teeth, put on our clothes) three times. It's said that repeating something three times will help you remember it.

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Are you sleeping, are you sleeping? ________? Morning bells are ringing, morning bells are ringing. Ding, ding, dong

The English version of this song is called "Brother John," but its French version is actually more popular worldwide and is known as "Frère Jacques." The author of this rhyme is unknown and it dates all the way back to at least the 1700s.

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There was an old woman who lived in a shoe. She had so many children, she didn't know what to do. ________. Then kissed them all soundly and put them to bed

The old woman fed her kids some broth and a big slice of bread. People have speculated that the old woman was based on Queen Caroline, who had eight children, or Elizabeth Vergoose of Boston, who had six children of her own and 10 stepchildren.

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Eeny, meeny, miny, moe,catch a tiger by the toe. ________, eeny, meeny, miny, moe

When you catch a tiger by the toe (not advised), if he hollers, let him go. This counting rhyme has been around since the early 19th century and is used to select somebody out of a group of people to do something.

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It's raining; it's pouring. The old man is snoring. ________, and he wouldn't get up in the morning

The old man in this story goes to bed, bumps his head, and doesn't get up in the morning. It's a point of much debate as to whether the old man died or just hit his head and got really tired so he slept in, nevertheless, the rhyme has been around for more than a century.

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Jack be nimble, Jack be quick, ________

Whoever is telling this story, is telling Jack to jump over the candlestick. The rhyme dates back to the 1800s, and back then, jumping over a candlestick without extinguishing its flame was a sign of good luck.

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Jack Sprat could eat no fat. ________. And so between the two of them, they licked the platter clean!

Jack's wife ate no lean protein or anything healthy, and jack didn't eat anything with any fat on it. If you've ever seen an illustration of these two, as you can imagine, Jack is extremely skinny and his wife is on the heavier side.

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Little Bo-Peep has lost her sheep, and doesn't know where to find them; ________

According to this nursery rhyme, which dates back to at least 1805, if you ever lose your sheep, all you have to do is leave them alone and they'll come home, wagging their tails behind them. Not sure how accurate that is, but this rhyme is still popular today.

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London Bridge is falling down, falling down, falling down. ________

"London Bridge is Falling Down" is one of the most popular nursery rhymes of all time and it is also known as "My Fair Lady." It was published in 1744 but dates back to the century prior. It talks about the degradation of one of London's bridges.

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Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary, how does your garden grow? ________ and pretty maids all in a row

Mary Contrary grew her garden with silver bells and cockleshells. This rhyme is one of the oldest, as it was published in 1744, and people have theorized that Mary is Mary, the mother of Jesus, Mary, Queen of Scots or Mary I of England .

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Old King Cole was a merry old soul and a merry old soul was he. ________ and he called for his fiddlers three

Old King Cole was a merry old soul and he was simply a Don. He lived the king life, and in this rhyme, he's chillin' on his throne while he calls for his pipe, his bowl and three personal fiddlers to play him some music. The rhyme first appeared in 1708 and depicts the life of any king who was about that royal life.

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