A Short Analysis of the ‘Humpty Dumpty’ Nursery Rhyme

Interesting Literature

The curious origins of a famous rhyme

Humpty Dumpty was originally a drink, then he became an egg in a nursery rhyme. Quite how this happened, nobody seems to know, but it did. The name ‘Humpty-dumpty’ was given to a drink of boiled ale and brandy in 1698, and that’s only the first known reference in print – the name is probably considerably older. By 1785, as Francis Grose recorded in his fascinating collection of contemporary slang, A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, the rhyming term had been applied to people, and was used specifically to describe a ‘short, dumpy, hump-shouldered person’ and, by extension, a clumsy person. But the words ‘Humpty-Dumpty’ mean one thing and one thing alone to most readers: an egg in the famous nursery rhyme which begins, ‘Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall’. What is the meaning of this little rhyme, and what are…

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