I’m still sick, and this, rather than my other job, is really getting in the way of my work here. And one thing that really makes work hard when I’m sick is that I’m so unfocused. Normally, when I’m working I don’t notice anything going on around me. But earlier today, I heard an ice cream truck. It was playing the song “Pop Goes the Weasel.” And it got me thinking about the song.
It turns out that it started as a dance in England in the early 1850s. It had no lyrics except for the cadence, where I assume people would shout, “Pop goes the weasel!” I can just imagine the good cheer. But over time, people wrote lyrics for the whole song. And they have changed over time as these things will. It’s all nonsense; it doesn’t mean anything.
The phrase “pop goes the weasel” does, however, have some meaning. According to Wikipedia, a weasel is the clock reel on a spinning wheel. It is where the completed yarn is collected. The standard clock real has a two yard circumference. So 40 revolutions create 80 yards of yarn, or a skein. The clock reel (weasel) was designed to “pop” when the spinner had completed one skein. Hence: “pop goes the weasel.” Then again, this could all be made up afterward, given that when the song was first popular, no one knew what the phrase meant. But the spinning wheel explanation makes more sense than any others.
Here is a nice animated video of the song made for kids by Hooplakidz. It includes a very fetching weasel too: