Pop Goes the Weasel!

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August 28, 2014 by auntkatefirmin

Did Emily Hall and her sister Dorothy Sylvester Hall sing this rhyme as children? If so, the words they sang might have gone like this:

Up and down the City Road,
In and out the Eagle,
That’s the way the money goes,
Pop! goes the weasel.

A view of the famous Eagle Tavern off City Road as it looked in 1841. © The Trustees of the British Museum.

A view of the famous Eagle Tavern off City Road as it looked in 1841. © The Trustees of the British Museum.

“Pop” is slang for pawn – a pop-shop is a pawnshop.  “Weasel” is said to be Cockney rhyming slang, short for “weasel and stoat” for coat, or alternatively “weasel and flute” for suit.

Other sources on the internet names types of tools that might be called a “weasel,” – some theories are more convincing than others!  An interesting post attempts to sort this out and asserts that the rhyme can’t be traced back much farther than 1850 – which means that Emily & Dorothy would not have sung these words, although their children could have.

The tune we use for the rhyme could be very much older than both the girls, but was not published with these lyrics until 1854. Whether they sang the song or visited the location they surely knew that the Eagle was nearby and perhaps requested to visit.

An 1845 view of the pleasure grounds associated with the Eagle Tavern. © The Trustees of the British Museum.

An 1845 view of the pleasure grounds associated with the Eagle Tavern. © The Trustees of the British Museum.

In 1825 when Dorothy was 8 and Emily was just born, the Eagle became an early music hall.  Surely, even if the family did not attend, the girls heard the favorite music hall numbers of the day and just like children today might have know more of the words than their parents!

Now I wonder –  what other games did they play?

 

 

 

 

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