Monday, August 29, 2011

This Old Man

I grew up with nursery rhymes.


I don't remember actually learning them in kindergarten, but give me one line, and I'll be able to tell you the rest. Well, most of it anyway.


I guess Tadika Kiddyhouse did a good job in teaching kids their nursery rhymes. (No, no, no understanding needed. Just rote memorization! Good job!) :D


I can remember every word to "Hey Diddle Diddle". If you ask me nicely I can sing it for you :)



Hey Diddle diddle
The cat and the fiddle
The cow jumped over the moon
The little dog laughed to see such sport
And the dish ran away with the spoon.

One question though: Have you ever wondered what these children's nursery rhymes mean?

We've always accepted the unacceptable in nursery rhymes. How a cat learned to play a fiddle, how a cow can jump over the moon, how a dog can laugh, and how dishes can elope with spoons.

But one nursery rhyme that's kinda got me stumped is "This Old Man."


This old man, he played one;
He played knick-knack on my thumb.
With a knick-knack, paddy whack,
Give a dog a bone;
This old man came rolling home.

First of all, after reading the first verse, I wonder, who is this old man? My grandfather? An elderly neighbour? Those crazy uncles you see sometimes wandering around? And how do you play 'knick knack'? The Cambridge Dictionary defines 'knick knack' as "a small decorative object, especially in the house" which doesn't exactly explain how you can play it. It's certainly not a musical instrument, that's for sure =.=

After looking up online, an old Irish tradition seems to imply that to 'play knick knack' is to play the spoons by sorta tapping them together. (Okay, I learned something new!)

So let's assume this old man could play knick knack. Why would he play knick knack on someone else's thumb? And even weirder, would you just let some old man you don't know play knick knack on your thumb?

And then, all of a sudden, you give some random dog a bone (where were you keeping it all this while?), and surprise of all surprises, the old man goes rolling home. Which I suppose is only possible if his house is located at the bottom of a hill.

This old man, he played two;
He played knick-knack on my shoe.
With a knick-knack, paddy whack,
Give a dog a bone;
This old man came rolling home.

Does anybody else wonder what a 'paddy whack' is? @.@ Well, I do. So again, I looked online, and apparently, paddy whack is an English expression that usually refers to someone who is drunk. (Again, I learned something new! :D) Ohhhh. I guess that's how he can "roll home". xD

This old man, he played three;
He played knick-knack on my knee.
With a knick-knack, paddy whack,
Give a dog a bone;
This old man came rolling home.

Now this random old man I don't know is playing knick knack on my knee? It sounds painful to me! =.= (And won't you be getting that knee-jerk reflex? You could possibly kick the old man right in the face. Or right in the "special place"--depending on whether the old man is squatting/standing when he plays knick knack on your knee.)

This old man, he played four;
He played knick-knack on my door.
With a knick-knack, paddy whack,
Give a dog a bone;
This old man came rolling home.

This old man, he played five;
He played knick-knack on my hive.
With a knick-knack, paddy whack,
Give a dog a bone;
This old man came rolling home.

What's my 'hive'? Is he talking about a bee's hive that I own? If it's a bee hive, that is a reaaalllyyyy stupid move. If you don't understand why it's a stupid move to play knick knack on a bee's hive, than you're worse than that old man playing knick knack on a bee's hive.

Or he could be referring to hives. A person can get hives. They look like this:


Why would someone play knick knack on that? That's pretty cruel and insensitive, don't you think? >.<

This old man, he played six;
He played knick-knack on my sticks.
With a knick-knack, paddy whack,
Give a dog a bone;
This old man came rolling home.

"On my sticks"? Maybe I have a corrupted mind but that sounds a little like a double entendre to me! xD

If they were the normal twigs, I still can't see why the old man would wanna play knick knack on that? =.=

This old man, he played seven;
He played knick-knack up in heaven.
With a knick-knack, paddy whack,
Give a dog a bone;
This old man came rolling home.

"Up in heaven"? Did the strange old man DIE now??? @.@

This old man, he played eight;
He played knick-knack on my gate.
With a knick-knack, paddy whack,
Give a dog a bone;
This old man came rolling home.

Nope. He did not die. He just came all the way back from heaven so he can play on your gate now.




This old man, he played nine;
He played knick-knack on my spine.
With a knick-knack, paddy whack,
Give a dog a bone;
This old man came rolling home.

Again, why would someone do that? This is a very sad, deranged old man indeed. Maybe he has Alzheimer's?

This old man, he played ten;
He played knick-knack once again.
With a knick-knack, paddy whack,
Give a dog a bone;
This old man came rolling home.

AGAIN?! Oh no, that's quite enough lar Uncle, thankyouverymuch.

I guess it has to be true--the old man is pissed drunk. Or a total whacko. Those are the only reasons to explain why he does all these bizarre things to some random person (me). Let's hope the next time this paddy whack comes along, he'll play knick knack far farrrrr away from me and roll his merry ass way home.


(Of course it is possible this nursery rhyme was not meant to make sense. Only to teach little kids rhymes like two-shoe, three-knee, door-four etc. In which case, don't try to make sense of this at all. And try to erase those creepy images of random old men playing knick knack on your spine.)

4 comments:

SandraC said...

i was LAUGHING NON STOP non stop the whole time..how u analysed the old man is totally hillarious. never tot in my mind to rethink the meaning of that nursery rhyme

hannah khaw said...

Hahahaha! Very witty! :)

danielchowtzeyoong said...

should totally do that in english class! give them an internet connection and get them to find the meaning to the nursery rhyme! :p

Liz said...

>>SandraC, hannah khaw
Thank you! xD

>>danielchowtzeyoong
It WOULD be interesting to study this in English class, wouldn't it? An in-depth study :P