Nursery Rhymes

Pop goes the Weasel

Rhyme & History

The Nursery Rhyme, 'Pop goes the weasel' sounds quite incomprehensible in this day an age! The origins of the rhyme are believed to date back to the 1700's. We have listed two versions of the rhyme on this page. The first rhyme is the better known version - some translation is in order!

Pop and Weasel?

These words are derived from Cockney Rhyming slang which originated in London. Cockneys were a close community and had a suspicion of strangers and a dislike of the Police (they still do!) Cockneys developed a language of their own based roughly on a rhyming slang - it was difficult for strangers to understand as invariably the second noun would always be dropped. Apples and Pears (meaning stairs) would be abbreviated to just 'apples', for instance, "watch your step on the apples". To "Pop" is the slang word for "Pawn". Weasel is derived from "weasel and stoat" meaning coat. It was traditional for even poor people to own a suit, which they wore as their 'Sunday Best'. When times were hard they would pawn their suit, or coat, on a Monday and claim it back before Sunday. Hence the term " Pop goes the Weasel"

In and out the Eagle?
The words to the Rhyme are "Up and down the City road, in and out the Eagle - Thatís the way the money goes - Pop! goes the weasel". The Eagle refers to 'The Eagle Tavern' a pub which is located on the corner of City Road and Shepherdess Walk in Hackney, North London. The Eagle was an old pub which was re-built as a music hall in 1825. Charles Dickens (1812-1870) was known to frequent the Music Hall. It was purchased by the Salvation Army in 1883 (they were totally opposed to drinking and Music Halls). The hall was later demolished and was rebuilt as a public house in 1901.

Pop goes the weasel
Nursery Rhyme lyrics, origins and history

Half a pound of tuppenny rice,
Half a pound of treacle.
Thatís the way the money goes,
Pop! goes the weasel.
Up and down the City road,
In and out the Eagle,
Thatís the way the money goes,
Pop! goes the weasel.

Alternative Lyrics

A penny for a spool of thread,
A penny for a needle.
Thatís the way the money goes,
Pop! goes the weasel.

"A penny for a spool of thread, a penny for a needle" - this version has led to a 'weasel' being interpreted as a shuttle or bobbin, as used by silk weavers, being pawned in a similar way as the suits or jackets owned by the Cockneys.

Alternative Lyrics (2)*

Every night when I go out
The monkey's on the table
Take a stick and knock it off
Pop goes the weasel

*Alternative Lyrics (2)
Our thanks go to Robert Creed and his family for this verse and interpretation of the lyrics - A 'monkey' is Cockney rhyming slang for £500. Robert also suggests that weasel was a type of iron used by tailors, so the rhyme relates to them pawning the tools of their trade in order to be able to go to the pub.

Alternative Lyrics (3)*

Round and round the mulberry bush
The monkey chased the weasel.
The monkey stopped to pull up his socks
And Pop goes the weasel.

*Alternative Lyrics (3)
Our thanks go to Jesse from Perth, Western Australia for these lyrics, which seem to be in combination with another children's song 'Here we go round the mulberry bush'. Lee speculates that if a monkey is £500, then perhaps the coat and money are being exchanged back and forth until something else comes up.

Thanks also to K. Saul for reminding me that the line "That's the way the money goes' was often replaced with "Mix it up, and make it nice" especially when the first verse of the rhyme was repeated

Additional Lyrics (4)*

I've no time to plead and pine
I've no time to wheedle
Kiss me quick, and then I'm gone
Pop! Goes the weasel"

Additional Lyrics (4) -
We love the words to this additional verse, supplied by Kim - Thanks Kim!

Alternative Lyrics (5)*

All around the cobbler's Bench
The monkey chased the weasel.
The monkey thought it all in fun,
Pop, goes the weasel.

Alternative Lyrics (5)
More alternative words, supplied by Stanley Walker from Pennsylvania - Thanks Stanley!

Alternative meaning to the words of Pop goes the Weasel

Please click the above link for an article by Judith Pfeiffer,
an Archivist at the Warren County Heritage Society

Pop goes the weasel
Nursery Rhyme lyrics, origins and history

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