The End of Oral Tradition | When nursery rhymes go wrong…



I was with some friends the other day and one of the kids was singing the classic nursery favorite “Hush Little Baby”.  One of the moms mentioned that their child will only sing the first verse, because that’s all she knew of it to sing to her daughter. I told her that I had the exact same problem! But instead of repeating the first verse over and over, I would make up my own version which usually goes something like this:

Hush little baby, don’t say a word;

Mama’s gonna buy you a mockingbird;

If that mocking bird don’t sing;

Mama’s gonna buy you a diamond ring.


If that diamond ring don’t shine;

Mama’s gonna buy you a porcupine;

If that porcupine likes to wiggle;

Mama’s gonna buy you a big dill pickle.


If that big dill pickle goes bad;

Mama’s gonna have Daddy buy an iPad;

When that iPad screen gets cracked;

Mama’s gonna buy you an ugly brown sack…


If that  hmmm schmm, something hmmm….twinkle twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are…

When I put aside the humor, there is a part of my mommy heart that is sad about the fact that I don’t know this and other nursery rhymes in order to sing them to my kids. This led me to think about how much oral tradition has been eliminated in our westernized modern society. Gone are the days when we need to rely on each other for teaching, mentoring, and helping and in their place we find self-reliance and the internet.

I sit here amazed that a simple nursery rhyme could turn me instantly philosophical on our current culture. I love technology (I sit here writing this blog) but I also want my kids to know that there are other methods of learning, like from those who went before us.  I want them to know how traditions matter and draw families closer together. So tonight, I’m googling “Hush Little Baby” and my kids will know that mama never bought a porcupine.

Do you have any oral traditions in your family?  What are some ways you preserve tradition as our society changes?


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