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June 14 is Pop Goes the Weasel Day

pop goes the weasel day

Today is Pop Goes the Weasel Day, celebrating the rhyme we’ve known since childhood and the tune that sticks in our heads every time we hear it played on an ice cream truck. But what does the song mean? pop goes the weasel dayThe short answer is that it’s probably nonsense verse made popular (no pun intended) because children enjoyed shouting, “Pop!” It’s believed to have originated in the 1700s in England, but the first official version of the song wasn’t published there until the 1850s. Within a few years, it had jumped the pond and appeared in Boston and New York newspapers.

The British version had many variations but usually shared these basic verses:

Half a pound of tupenny rice,
Half a pound of treacle.
That’s the way the money goes,
Pop! goes the weasel.

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

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

The first verse seems to refer to cheap rice and treacle, a molasses-based syrup. Several British slang dictionaries agree that “monkey” represented £500, a tidy sum in those days. The Eagle most likely refers to the name of a pub on City Road in London. Today it displays a plaque endorsing this interpretation of the verse.

Is “Pop Goes the Weasel” about a dad who takes the money meant to put better food on the table and heads to the pub to drink it away? Maybe, maybe not. What does any of this have to do with a weasel and why does it pop? Theories abound:

  1. It refers to a dead weasel. Weasels pop their heads up when alarmed. Apparently, things did not go well for this one.
  2. A “Spinner’s weasel” is a spoked reel that measures yarn and makes a popping sound to indicate the desired length, usually a skein, has been reached.
  3. In English (usually Cockney) rhyming slang, “weasel” is short for “weasel and stoat,” which stands for “coat, ” usually a fancy one to wear to church on Sunday.
  4. “Pop” stands for “pawn.”

This leaves us with a dead rodent, a woman—sorry to reinforce gender norms, but that’s how it was—working her fingers to the bone spinning yarn and/or a man who spends so much on beer that he has to pawn his coat on Monday morning, then work all week so he can buy it back to wear on the following Sunday.

Soon after “Pop Goes the Weasel” came to the U.S. in the 1850s, it began to change. Today, its lyrics vary but tend to contain some permutation of the following:

All around the mulberry bush,
The monkey chased the weasel.
The monkey thought ’twas all in good sport,
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.

Even if we can’t agree on the words and their meanings (or lack thereof), we all remember bits of that first verse and the tune is universal. What does it remind you of? We think of warm summer days playing tag and running after the ice cream truck.

Happy Pop Goes the Weasel Day. And to all you weasels: Let’s be careful out there.

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

Donald Duck Day

donald duck dayJune 9 is Donald Duck Day. It celebrates the date in 1934 when he first appeared in a Disney cartoon called “The Wise Little Hen.”

In his 1941 authorized biography, The Life of Donald Duck, he revealed he’d been born on Friday the 13th. When he starred in “Donald’s Happy Birthday” in 1949, his car’s license plate number read 313, which many fans took to mean he was born on March 13th.

This has caused a schism between those who celebrate Donald Duck Day on June 9th and those who insist it should be observed on March 13th. Although his publicist has not returned our calls, we believe Donald Fauntleroy Duck would approve of at least two days dedicated in his honor.

His performance in “Der Fuehrer’s Face” helped it win the 1943 Academy Award for best animated short film. In it, he awakens in a nightmare world where he is a Nazi. (Its original title was “Donald Duck in Nutzi Land” but was changed to “Der Fuehrer’s Face” after the novelty song by that name became a runaway hit.)

Propaganda films weren’t unusual, but because Donald appeared as a Nazi, however unwillingly, the cartoon was considered objectionable and relegated to the Disney vault after the end of World War II. In 1994, a group of 1,000 members of the animation industry voted it one of the 50 greatest cartoons ever made. Ten years later, Disney finally released it in a set called “Walt Disney Treasures: On the Front Lines.”

It’s possible to find the compilation for sale on eBay but prices are high because Disney made only 250,000 sets in 2004. We can’t find it on the Disney youTube channel but if you’re curious, the cartoon is available through a few unofficial sources. Here’s one:

There are links here and here to a version that includes a short explanatory prologue.

We’d like to leave you all with an observation made by Chandler Bing on the TV show “Friends.”

You know what’s weird? Donald Duck never wore pants. But whenever he’s getting out of the shower, he always puts a towel around his waist. I mean, what is that about?

Happy Donald Duck Day!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

May 25 is Towel Day

Today is Towel Day, created to honor Douglas Adams, author of the beloved Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, after he passed away on May 11, 2001, at the age of 49. It took fans two weeks to organize a worldwide tribute to Adams. May 25th has remained Towel Day ever since.

towel day

Happy Towel Day from the International Space Station!

Why is it called Towel Day? The towel is an indispensable part of a hitchhiker’s kit. Here is a portion of the explanation in Chapter 3 of the first novel:

A towel … is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitch-hiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a mini-raft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-bogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you — daft as a brush, but very very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

What is the answer to Life, the Universe and Everything (third in the Hitchhiker’s series)? Plug this into Google Search to find the answer….

towel day

Happy Towel Day!

 

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

May 9 is Vast Wasteland Day

vast wasteland dayToday is Vast Wasteland Day. On May 9, 1961, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chair Newton Norman Minow gave a speech at the National Association of Broadcasters convention, chastising television programmers for their failure to serve the public interest.

First, a little backstory on Mr. Minow is in order. He was born in Milwaukee, WI, on January 17, 1926. He served in the U.S. Army during World War II, earned a law degree in 1950, then spent a year as a clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson.

The following year, he was hired by Adlai Stevenson, worked on the Illinois governor’s two presidential campaigns and became a partner in his law firm. He campaigned for John F. Kennedy before the 1960 election. In 1961, President Kennedy appointed Minow as the chair of the FCC.

Now we’re caught up to May 9, 1961, when he said this:

When television is good, nothing — not the theater, not the magazines or newspapers — nothing is better. But when television is bad, nothing is worse. I invite each of you to sit down in front of your television set when your station goes on the air and stay there for a day without a book, without a magazine, without a newspaper, without a profit and loss sheet or a rating book to distract you. Keep your eyes glued to that set until the station signs off. I can assure you that what you will observe is a vast wasteland.

You will see a procession of game shows, formula comedies about totally unbelievable families, blood and thunder, mayhem, violence, sadism, murder, western bad men, western good men, private eyes, gangsters, more violence, and cartoons. And endlessly, commercials — many screaming, cajoling, and offending. And most of all, boredom. True, you’ll see a few things you will enjoy. But they will be very, very few. And if you think I exaggerate, I only ask you to try it.

The dated reference to stations signing off will be familiar to anyone old enough to remember the image of an American flag billowing to the strains of the national anthem, followed by a test pattern or color bars. Or to those who woke up on the couch to the sound of static, bathed in the glow of the spooky, Poltergeist-y snow that instantly made you feel there was someone waiting in the shadows, brandishing an axe.

Other than that, the speech could be given today. It would probably be met with a resounding, “So what?” rather than the ire that occurred in 1961. It was considered by many to be an elitist attack on programmers and viewers who enjoyed lowbrow or escapist fare.

Fun Fact: The writers of the 1964-1967 TV series Gilligan’s Island named the tour boat that ran aground the S.S. Minnow as a sarcastic reference to his name.

Minow doesn’t seem to mind. When asked what he considers his most valuable contribution, he mentions convincing Congress to pass laws that paved the way for communications satellites. He recalls telling President Kennedy, “Communications satellites will be much more important than sending man into space, because they will send ideas into space. Ideas last longer than men.”

Minow still influences communications-related law as senior counsel at Chicago-based law firm Sidley Austin LLP.  In 1988, he recruited Barack Obama to work there as a summer associate where he met his future wife, Michelle Robinson. He supported Obama’s campaign for presidency and reelection.

He’s received 12 honorary degrees, sat on too many boards to mention, written four books, funded Sesame Street, and co-sponsored the Digital Promise Project, which uses the Internet to further education. He also serves as Honorary Consul General of the Republic of Singapore.

If given the chance to meet Mr. Minow, we would ask him a question that might show our own lowbrow tendencies. But, admit it: Don’t you want to know what he thinks of the Kardashians?

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays