“There Was a Crooked Man” is an English nursery rhyme. It has a Roud Folk Song Index number of 4826.
Common modern versions include:
There was a crooked man, and he walked a crooked mile. He found a crooked sixpence against a crooked stile. He bought a crooked cat, which caught a crooked mouse, And they all lived together in a little crooked house.
The rhyme was first recorded by James Orchard Halliwell in the 1840s and gained popularity in the early twentieth century.
“There Was an Old Woman Who Lived In a Shoe” is a popular English language nursery rhyme. It has a Roud Folk Song Index number of 19132.
The most common version of the rhyme is:
There was an old woman who lived in a shoe.
She had so many children, she didn’t know what to do;
She gave them some broth without any bread;
Then whipped them all soundly and put them to bed.
The earliest printed version in Joseph Ritson’s Gammer Gurton’s Garland in 1794 has the coarser last line:
She whipp’d all their bums, and sent them to bed.
There were many other variations printed in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Iona and Peter Opie pointed to the version published in Infant Institutes in 1797, which finished with the lines:
Then out went th’ old woman to bespeak ’em a coffin,
And when she came back, she found ’em all a-loffeing.
The term “a-loffeing”, they believed, was Shakespearean, suggesting that the rhyme is considerably older than the first printed versions. They then speculated that if this were true it might have a folk lore meaning and pointed to the connection between shoes and marriage, symbolised by casting a shoe when a bride leaves for her honeymoon.
Debates over the meaning of the rhyme largely revolve around matching the old woman with historical figures, as Peter Opie observed ‘for little reason other than the size of their families’. Candidates include:
Queen Caroline, the wife of King George II, who had eight children.
Elizabeth Vergoose of Boston, who had six of her own children and ten stepchildren.
There is no evidence to identify either of these candidates with the unnamed subject of the rhyme.