Little Miss Muffet
|"Little Miss Muffet"|
Origins and meaningEdit
The rhyme first appeared in print in 1805, in a book titled Songs for the Nursery. Like many such rhymes, its origins are unclear. Some claim it was written by Dr Thomas Muffet (d.1604), an English physician and entomologist, regarding his stepdaughter Patience; others claim it refers to Mary, Queen of Scots (1543–87), who was said to have been frightened by religious reformer John Knox (1510–72). The former explanation is speculative, and the latter is doubted by most literary scholars, who note that stories linking folk tales or songs to political events are often urban legends. Several novels and films, including Along Came a Spider, take their titles from the poem's crucial line.
There is an alternative set of lyrics which has been taught in some countries where whey is not a common foodstuff. In the nineteenth century the rhyme existed in many alternative versions, including: 'Little Mary Ester, Sat upon a tester' (1812) and 'Little Miss Mopsey, Sat in the shopsey' (1842). These rhymes may be parodies of whichever is the original.
Students of medicine learn the following version of the nursery rhyme, which describes two of the physical signs of chronic liver disease and its association with alcohol:
Little Miss Muffet/ Sat on her tuffet/ Drinking whisky and gin./ Two red hands and a spider/ Sat down beside her,/ Such are the wages of sin.
The "two red hands" refer to the physical sign of palmar erythema (red palms) and "a spider" refers to spider naevi (enlarged, spiral arterioles that branch out on the skin of the upper body, blanch on pressure and re-fill from the centre).
- Opie, I. & Opie, P. (1997) . The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (2nd ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 323–4.
- Earlier versions mention ″little spider.″ See, e.g.: Mother Goose's Nursery Rhymes. A Collection of Alphabets, Rhymes, Tales, and Jingles. L., George Routledge and Sons, 1877, p. 263
- "Was Little Miss Muffet a local girl?". Brookmans Park Newsletter. Retrieved February 4, 2009.
- Sorby, A. (2005). Schoolroom Poets: Childhood and the Place of American Poetry, 1865–1917. UPNE. p. 80.
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