Saturday, May 18, 2013

Diddle, Diddle, Dumpling, My Son John,

Ok, his name's Jacob, not John and he is my grandson, not son, but I had the pleasure of babysitting him the other day while his mummy was at an appointment.
I have been doing this a few times lately now and we are starting to build up a great relationship of Nana and Grandson.

Usually I arrive while he is asleep and there for when he wakes up, but this last time I was putting him to bed. With it being cooler he likes to wear his gumboots all the time and he had a sleeveless jacket and hat on too. I changed his nappy and he was ready for his afternoon nap but wasn't that keen to discard all his favourite garments. Once in his room I was able to get his boots off and coax him out of his hat and jacket once he was in his bed, but he still wanted some books, a 'Thomas" train, trucks and his soft toys.

The rhyme "Diddle, diddle, dumpling, my son John," kept going through my mind as I tucked him in and closed the door. When the murmurs and bumping of things moving around in the bed settled I went in to check him out.

I so wanted to take a photo but thought better of it as I didn't want the flash to wake him, as he looked so cute. He had the train, trucks and books all tucked around him, and although he had fallen asleep like that I was sure if he tried to roll on the hard shapes, it would wake him, so I gently removed all but the soft toys, tucked his 'blankie' around him and pulled up the bedding. He slept for nearly two hours.

So I was curious as to the origins of the nursery rhyme and looked up what I could.

From my nursery rhyme book
Diddle, diddle, dumpling, my son John,

Went to bed with his trousers on,

One shoe off, and one shoe on,

Diddle, diddle, dumpling, my son John.

The rhyme is first recorded when printed in The Newest Christmas Box published in London around 1797. It may be derived from 'Diddle, diddle, diddle Dumpling', a traditional street cry of hot dumpling sellers. It is thought that this rhyme was a mother's words to a typical boy child.

There are no origins in history found for Diddle Diddle Dumpling - it is merely a nonsense rhyme probably made popular and handed down from generation to generation owing to the popularity of the name John.

It is an interesting fact that this is the only old rhyme that uses the name John - all of the older poems use the colloquialism for John i.e. Jack.

(A little note here, my grandson is sometimes nicknamed Jac)

The name John may have been connected to John of Gaunt (1340 - 1399) who was a rich and powerful Plantagenet prince. His liaison with a commoner called Katherine Swynford produced four illegitimate children who were given the name Beaufort (He married Katherine in 1396 and their children, by this time adults, were legitimised). Their son John was the Great-Great Grandfather of King Henry VIII of England.

The phrase "Diddle, diddle, dumpling" means "toddle, toddle, plump little kid" (dumpling meaning plump little kid in a friendly sort of way).
The Collaborative International Dictionary of English (from a web dictionary) gives the definition for diddle as “to totter, as a child in walking.”
The Oxford Dictionary online gives the definition of dumpling as “a small, fat person”

(now I am definitely not saying that Jacob is dumpy or fat nor that he totters - its just the wording of the rhyme!!)

Denslow's Mother Goose (1901) has the first line as "Deedle Deedle Dumpling", as in the version from The Little Mother Goose (1912):

Deedle, deedle, dumpling, my son John,
Went to bed with his stockings on;
One shoe off, and one shoe on,
Deedle, deedle, dumpling, my son John.

The version of the rhyme below is from The Real Mother Goose (1916), illustrated by Blanche Fisher Wright. It's interesting to see how they name the clothing in their version:

Diddle diddle dumpling, my son John
Went to bed with his breeches on,
One stocking off, and one stocking on;
Diddle diddle dumpling, my son John.

And in the version from Harry's Ladder to Learning (1850) ‘stockings’ is changed to ‘shoe’

Diddle, diddle, dumpling, my son John
Went to bed with his breeches on;
One shoe off, the other shoe on,
Diddle, diddle, dumpling, my son John.

Here's the Scottish version as found in A Book for Bairns and Big Folk, Children's Rhymes, Games, Songs, and Stories, 2nd edition (1904) by Robert Ford:

Hey diddle dumplin' my son John,
Went to his bed with his trowsers on;
One shoe off and the other shoe on,
Hey diddle dumplin', my son John.

Needless to say the version I know is more fitting for today's language and attire!

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