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Today's Word



Jun 7, 2021
This week’s theme
Words coined after nursery rhymes

This week’s words
Humpty Dumpty
Mother Hubbard
Simple Simon

Humpty Dumpty
Who Pushed Humpty Dumpty? And Other Notorious Nursery Tale Mysteries
by David Levinthal & John Nickle
Image: Amazon

Previous week’s theme
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with Anu Garg

Rock-a-bye, baby, on a treetop ... Twinkle, twinkle, little star ...
A mother’s soothing voice singing a lullaby or a nursery rhyme to her child. What could be a more blissful sight than that! Reminds us of nursery rhymes we heard as babies that since then have become a part of us.

While the nursery rhymes appear innocuous, on second thought, they can be gruesome, can be taken as a metaphor or riddle, interpretation of political events, and more.

Today we see them in memes and parodies, in science, and they are such a part of us that characters and things from these rhymes have become a part of the language.

This week we’ll see five words and phrases that have their origins in nursery rhymes.

Humpty Dumpty

(HUHM-tee DUHMP-tee)

1. A short, rotund person.
2. Something or someone broken beyond repair.

After Humpty Dumpty, a character in a nursery rhyme, who is irreparably broken after a fall. He’s typically shown as an anthropomorphic egg. Earliest documented use: 1785.

The most common version of the nursery rhyme goes:
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king’s horses
And all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.
Did you know who pushed Humpty Dumpty? The mystery is finally solved. See the investigative book Who Pushed Humpty Dumpty? And Other Notorious Nursery Tale Mysteries.

“Owner Bubba McCutcheon ... a Humpty Dumpty figure who gives customers tapes of Christian music he records on a karaoke machine.”
Susan Hogan-Albach; After the Ashes; Star Tribune (Minneapolis, Minnesota); Mar 23, 1997.

“My AirPod was now a Humpty Dumpty in so many pieces I’d never be able to reassemble it again.”
Geoffrey A. Fowler; Everyone’s AirPods Will Die; The Washington Post; Oct 8, 2019.

See more usage examples of Humpty Dumpty in Vocabulary.com’s dictionary.

There is always something to do. There are hungry people to feed, naked people to clothe, sick people to comfort and make well. And while I don't expect you to save the world, I do think it's not asking too much for you to love those with whom you sleep, share the happiness of those whom you call friend, engage those among you who are visionary, and remove from your life those who offer you depression, despair, and disrespect. -Nikki Giovanni, poet and professor (b. 7 Jun 1943)

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