Posted in Writing

Ring Around the Rosie…

When I was in middle school, my history teacher one day mentioned with this goofy smile on her face that the nursery rhyme, Ring Around the Rosie, is actually about the plague that killed most of Europe’s population in the 14th century.

At first, I didn’t believe her. I thought she was joking. But as she explained, I came to a realization: nursery rhymes would never be the same…

I’ll break it down for you, verse by verse.

Ring around the Rosie…

One of the obvious symptoms of contracting the plague was a rash-like red ring on the skin.

Pockets full of posies….

The smell of rotting corpses and who knows what else was so strong that some people resorted to stuffing their pockets with fragrant flowers. The disease floating through the air wouldn’t break through their shield of good smell, in other words.

Ashes, ashes…

If you were lucky enough to be spared from mass burials, then your body was cremated and reduced to ashes. I imagine that it probably wasn’t uncommon to burn down the deceased’s house as well in order to cleanse the town/village.

We all fall down!

This, of course, means death. I’m not sure of the exact percentage, but over half of Europe’s population was exterminated within a short period of time.

This is what’s called a euphemism: a clever substitution of something deemed too harsh or grotesque to say outright. I suppose it is useful, in a way, to teach children about the past without permanently scarring them with images of bodies covered in horrible rashes…

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