Related to the previous post, and mondegreens in general. I first wrote about this years ago.
One of my favorite stories, up in smoke. The idea that “Ring Around The Rosie” is actually about the plague – “all fall down” meaning falling over dead? It’s completely untrue. The first written versions of Ring Around Roses show up in the late 1800’s, some with posies and falling down, some not. But the Great Plague was in 1346, and later plagues didn’t have the sneezing part. It is not credible that a little poem would be passed down orally, unchanged for 500 years, then suddenly break into half-a-dozen versions that all get written down for the first time. Things can fragment quickly, as the research about flashbulb memories and 9/11 illustrate. It’s the staying the same that’s the problem. Ancient stories do come down to us in symbolic or coded form, but even then, you have to accept a lot of stretching.
Darn. There are stories we wish were true. But anything that is too good to be true is usually…too good to be true. See also, all those stories of what our naughty words are acronyms for (acronyms are new – like from WWII), or those phrases “from Elizabethan times” about sleeping tight, wet your whistle, rule of thumb, and so forth. Ain’t so.