Did Airline Passengers Really Sue Southwest Airlines Over the Use of a Nursery Rhyme by a Flight Attendant?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about nursery rhymes and whether they are true or false.

NURSERY RHYME URBAN LEGEND: Airline passengers sued Southwest Airlines over the usage of a nursery rhyme by a flight attendant.

Few children’s rhymes have as rough a history as the simple “counting” rhyme, “Eeny, meeny, miny, moe.”

The most popular version of the rhyme goes:

Eeny, meeny, miny, moe,
Catch a tiger by the toe.
If he hollers let him go,
Eeny, meeny, miny, moe.

With the rhyme designed to “randomly” count out one person, for purposes of determining who goes first, who is “it,” etc.

However, years ago, a particularly American take on the rhyme was quite popular (up until the late 19th Century, it was the most popular version of the rhyme in the United States), and in this version, instead of the word “tiger,” a common racial epithet for black people was used.

Some versions of the rhyme went even further, with stuff like:

If he won’t work then let him go;
Skidum, skidee, skidoo.

In any event, because of the history with the rhyme, some black people have a real problem with the rhyme, no matter the current lyrics.

So keep that in mind when you hear that a pair of black passengers were boarding a Southwest Airlines flight in 2001 (on Southwest, the passengers pick their own seats), when a flight attendant told them either:
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Was There Really a Mary Who Had a Little Lamb?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about nursery rhymes and whether they are true or false.

NURSERY RHYME URBAN LEGEND: There actually was a Mary who had a little lamb.

Like I noted in the last nursery rhyme urban legend, for almost all nursery rhymes we really don’t know the origin of the rhyme.

In the case of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” we appear to know a little bit more than others.

Here’s the rhyme (the adapted version that was set to music in the 1830s)…

Mary had a little lamb,
little lamb, little lamb,
Mary had a little lamb,
whose fleece was white as snow.
And everywhere that Mary went,
Mary went, Mary went,
and everywhere that Mary went,
the lamb was sure to go.

It followed her to school one day
school one day, school one day,
It followed her to school one day,
which was against the rules.
It made the children laugh and play,
laugh and play, laugh and play,
it made the children laugh and play
to see a lamb at school.

And so the teacher turned it out,
turned it out, turned it out,
And so the teacher turned it out,
but still it lingered near,
And waited patiently about,
patiently about, patiently about,
And waited patiently about
till Mary did appear.

“Why does the lamb love Mary so?”
Love Mary so? Love Mary so?
“Why does the lamb love Mary so,”
the eager children cry.
“Why, Mary loves the lamb, you know.”
The lamb, you know, the lamb, you know,
“Why, Mary loves the lamb, you know,”
the teacher did reply.

So, WAS there a real Mary?
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Was “Humpty Dumpty” in the Famous Nursery Rhyme Referring to a Notable Cannon?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about nursery rhymes and whether they are true or false.

NURSERY RHYME URBAN LEGEND: Humpty Dumpty was named after a cannon.

A lot of the fun with nursery rhymes for adults is trying to figure out the meaning behind these children’s rhymes. Since the origins of almost all of them have been lost to the ages for centuries, a “best guess” is all we really can do for most of them, and in a lot of cases, said “best guesses” really can be quite a stretch (“You see, ___ stands for _____, so when he says ____, he really means ____” – stuff like that).

One such stretch is with the famous story of Humpty Dumpty.

As the tale goes:

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king’s horses,
And all the king’s men,
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.

Interestingly enough, it seems likely that the initial usage of the song was as a riddle. You know, sort of like the one about “Henry” being discovered in a pool of water and broken glass having drowned, and you’re supposed to figure out that Henry is a goldfish. It appears that the same was here originally, that you were supposed to figure out WHY Humpty Dumpty couldn’t be put back together – because he’s an egg, not a human!

In any event, one popular “origin” of the rhyme comes down to these alternate lyrics to the tale…

In Sixteen Hundred and Forty-Eight
When England suffered the pains of state
The Roundheads lay siege to Colchester town
Where the king’s men still fought for the crown
There One-Eyed Thompson stood on the wall
A gunner of deadliest aim of all
From St. Mary’s Tower his cannon he fired
Humpty-Dumpty was its name
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall…

Thus the story is that in 1648, a Royalist cannon in Colchester used during the English Civil War was perched on a wall and was knocked down, and all of the King’s horses and all the King’s men couldn’t get “Humpty Dumpty” back together again.

True>
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