Pop Goes the Weasel: Wikis


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"Pop! Goes the Weasel"
Roud #5249
Written by Traditional
Published 1855
Written England
Language English
Form Nursery Rhyme

"Pop! Goes the Weasel" is an English language nursery rhyme and singing game. It has a Roud Folk Song Index number of 5249.



There are many different versions of the lyrics to the song. Most share the basic verse:

Problems listening to this file? See media help.
Half a pound of tuppenny rice,
Half a pound of treacle.
That’s the way the money goes,
Pop! goes the weasel.[1]

Often a second verse is added:

Every night when I get home
The monkey's on the table,
Take a stick and knock it off,
Pop! goes the weasel.[1]


This song can only be traced back to the mid-nineteenth century, when a music sheet acquired by the British Library in 1853 described a dance, 'Pop! Goes the Weasel', which was, according to the music sheet, 'An Old English Dance, as performed at Her Majesty's & The Nobilities Balls, with the Original Music'. It had a tune very similar to that used today and only the words "Pop! Goes the Weasle".[1] There is evidence that several people tried to add lyrics to the popular tune. The following verse had been written by 1855 when it quoted in a performance at the Theatre Royal:

Up and down the City Road
In and out the Eagle
That's the way the money goes
Pop! goes the weasel.[1]

American versions

The song seems to have crossed the Atlantic in the 1850s when the lyrics were still unstable in Britain and was printed in Boston in 1858 with the lyric:

All around the cobbler's house,
The monkey chased the people.
And after them in double haste,
Pop! goes the weasel.[2]

In 1901 in New York the opening lyric was:

All around the chicken coop,
The possum chased the weasel.[2]

The most common recent version was not recorded until 1914. In addition to the three verses above, American versions often include some of the following:

All around the Mulberry Bush,
The monkey chased the weasel.
The monkey stopped to pull up his sock, (or The monkey stopped to scratch his nose)
Pop! goes the weasel.
Half a pound of tuppenny rice,
Half a pound of treacle.
Mix it up and make it nice,
Pop! goes the weasel.

Contemporary verses in the United States include these:

All around the mulberry bush (or cobbler's bench)
The monkey chased the weasel;
The monkey thought 'twas all in fun, (or "'twas all in good sport") (or "that it was a joke")
Pop! goes the weasel.
A penny for a spool of thread,
A penny for a needle—
That's the way the money goes,
Pop! goes the weasel.
Jimmy's got the whooping cough
And Timmy's got the measles
That's the way the story goes
Pop! goes the weasel.

There are numerous American versions[3] as printed in Vance Randolph, Ozark Folksongs, Volume III, pp. 368-369. Randolph's #556, the A text. Collected 1926 from Mrs. Marie Wilbur of Pineville, Missouri.

British versions tend to be a combination of American and British lyrics.[4]

As a singing game

In Britain the rhyme has been played as a children's game since at least the late nineteenth century. The game is played to the "first" verse quoted above. Several rings are formed and they dance around as the verse is sung. One more players than the number of rings are designated as "weasels", all but one standing in the rings. When the "Pop! goes the weasel" line is reached they have to rush to a new ring before anyone else can. The one that fails is eliminated and the number of circles is reduced by one until there is only one weasel left.[1]

Meaning and interpretations

The Eagle pub in City Road, with the rhyme on the wall

Perhaps because of the obscure nature of the lyrics there have been many suggestions for their significance, particularly over the meaning of the phrase 'Pop! goes the weasel', including: that it is a tailor's flat iron, a hatter's tool, a clock reel used for measuring in spinning,[5] a piece of silver plate, or that 'weasel and stoat' is rhyming slang for 'coat', which is 'popped or pawned' to visit or after visiting the Eagle pub, that it is a mishearing of weevil or vaisselle, that it was a nickname of James I, and that 'rice' and 'treacle' are slang terms for potassium nitrate and charcoal and that therefore the rhyme refers to the gunpowder plot. Other than correspondences none of these theories has any additional evidence to support it, and some can be discounted because of the known history of the song.[1] Iona and Pete Opie observed that, even at the height of the dance craze in the 1850s no-one seemed to know what the phrase meant.[1]

It is possible that the "eagle" mentioned in the song's third verse refers to The Eagle freehold pub along Shepherdess Walk in London, which was established as a music hall in 1825 and was rebuilt as a public house in 1901. This public house bears a plaque with this interpretation of the nursery rhyme and the pub's history. Shepherdess Walk is just off the City Road mentioned in the same verse.[6]

In popular culture

In literature

In film

  • In the Three Stooges short subject Punch Drunks (1934), Curly Howard is a mild mannered simpleton who goes into a fighting frenzy when he hears the song. The tune was played in the title credits of their Pop Goes the Easel. The gag was reused in the feature film The Three Stooges Go Around the World in a Daze with Curly-Joe DeRita becoming combative when he hears the song.
  • The tune is a recurring part of the underscore of the Warner Bros. cartoon, A Pest in the House (1947).
  • In The Godfather II (1974), when Frankie Pentangeli tries to get the band to play a tarantella, they play Pop! Goes the Weasel instead.
  • In Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991), when Robin is crossing a river, Will Scarlet trips him with a rope and sings to this tune.
  • In A Rage in Harlem (1991), when the thug, Slim, Badja Djola, is about to kill Jackson, Forest Whitaker, he sings the tune of Pop! goes the weasel.
  • In Tiny Toon Adventures: How I Spent My Vacation (1991), Wade Pig hums the Pop! goes the weasel tune several times throughout. Once, he also hums the first line of Old MacDonald, but finishes with Pop! goes the weasel.
  • In Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (2009), Buck sings Pop! goes the weasel when he emerges from under a dinosaur's foot after it's been trying to kill him.

In music

  • A version recorded by Anthony Newley achieved number 12 in the UK charts in 1961.
  • "Pop Goes The Weasel" is a diss song about Vanilla Ice by the American rap group 3rd Bass. Released in 1991, it is taken from their album Derelicts Of Dialect.
  • "Pop! Goes the Weasel" is a song by the hardcore band Pissed Happy Children. Released in 1989, on their album Pissed Playground.
  • One of Marc-André Hamelin's player piano pieces (named "Pop music?") is based on the Pop Goes the Weasel's main theme.
  • The Lords of Acid song, "Out Comes the Evil", starts out by repeating the first verse twice
  • March 2009: Brainkicker: Mash Hairy. Lyrics on hardstyle song contains: That's the way the money goes, Half a pound of treacle, That's the way the money goes, Pop! Goes the weasel

In comedy

  • Andy Kaufman used "Pop! Goes the Weasel" as a karaoke 'stage prop'.

In television

  • "Pop! Goes the Weasel" is prominently featured in the 1960s television series The Prisoner. An instrumental version is part of the soundtrack of several episodes (most notably the premiere episode "Arrival"), and in "Once Upon a Time" the lead character Number Six, whose mind has been reverted to childhood, begins singing the song, but is goaded by his nemesis, Number Two, who turns the word "Pop" into an acronym for "Protect Other People", leading the two to yell "Why POP?" at each other.
  • In the Star Trek: The Next Generation pilot "Encounter at Farpoint" (1987), Lt. Commander Data is whistling the song when first encountered by Commander Riker, who supplies the last notes. The event is referenced again in the film Star Trek: Nemesis (2002).
  • The theme song "You Don't Need Pants for the Victory Dance" from the American animated cartoon television series I Am Weasel is based on "Pop! Goes the Weasel" lyrics and song.
  • In Alias, Episode 14 in Season 2. A CIA Agent is singing the song shortly before she is being killed by an explosion (2003).
  • In The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson The episode name for the skit "Murder, She Wrote" 2008 is "Pop! Goes The Weasel... OF DEATH!".
  • In NYPD Blue Season 5 Episode 4 - "The Truth Is Out There" (1997) Andy Sipowicz asks almost everyone what "Pop! goes the weasel" means after singing it to Theo in the tub.

In children's toys

  • The song was used for the popular series of Jack-in-the-boxes manufactured by Mattel. When a crank on the side of the box was turned, the tune would be heard instrumentally, and when the music arrived at the word Pop the lid would fly open and a clown figure would pop out. This Jack-in-the-box, together with the tune, was featured in the opening credits of the popular Romper Room TV series.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g I. Opie and P. Opie, The Singing Game (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985), pp. 216-18.
  2. ^ a b W. E. Studwell, The Americana Song Reader (Haworth Press, 1997), pp. 135-6.
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ James J. Fuld, The Book of World-Famous Music: Classical, Popular, and Folk (1966, 5th edn., Dover, 2000), pp. 440-1.
  5. ^ D. D. Volo, Family Life in Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-century America (Greenwood, 2006), p. 264.
  6. ^ P. Zwart, Islington; a History and Guide (London: Taylor & Francis, 1973), p. 42.
  7. ^ Awdry, Rev. W. (1958). Duck and the Diesel Engine. Edmund Ward. pp. 32. ISBN 0 7182 1050 6. 

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