Thursday, September 06, 2007

Ladybugs, Ladybirds and the ensuing nightmare

These are a lovely little gift I received yesterday from a friend. I know them as ladybugs, scientists apparently prefer the title lady beetles, some kind of social cripple might use the Latin name coccinellidae, but here in the UK they are referred to as ladybirds. There's a heart warming English nursery rhyme which reads:

Ladybird, fly away home,
Your house is on fire, your children all gone,

All except one and that's little Ann
For she crept under the frying pan.

Why this one little bug Ann was safe under, of all things, a frying pan in a blazing inferno one will never know, but I suppose as far as English nursery rhymes go, this one's relatively harmless...

...As opposed to, say, Three Blind Mice which is meant to refer to three suspected Protestant subversives who were not dismembered and blinded as is suggested in the rhyme, but much more comfortably burned alive at the stake by Queen "Bloody" Mary I.

Then there is Ring a Ring o' Rosies (which I, being American, used to sing as "ring around the rosie"). Little did I know in my innocence that I was singing about the horrific suffering of the Bubonic Plague, and when shouting 'ashes, ashes' and bursting into laughter while throwing myself to the ground I was in effect celebrating the cremation of the wretched dead bodies. Oh joy.

And then there's the old fave Jack and Jill ... which is said to refer to the beheading of French King Louis XVI followed by his wife Marie Antoinette during the Reign of Terror in 1793. Apparently the rhyme's words were sugar-coated a bit at some point to make them more suitable for children. You know, because vinegar and brown paper are commonly known to cure decapitation. Everyone knows that.

Now that I've got the shivers and am reasonably convinced I was subconsciously damaged during my childhood, I'm just going to go play with my pretty glass ladybugs...

** postscript -- apparently, according to Dan (the British representative of this blog) the aforementioned bug-life saving frying pan was (as is apparently meant to be common knowledge) 'upturned'. So perhaps little Ann might have ended up nicely roasted or smoked as opposed to char-grilled. **