The sweet nursery rhymes of our childhood, who doesn’t remember them? ‘Humpty Dumpty’, ‘Jack and Jill’ and ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’ are well known all over the world, wherever English is spoken as the mother tongue. And even beyond that, they have also found their way into English language textbooks for foreign speakers. The same nursery rhymes are said and sung everywhere—in the United States, in Canada, in Australia, in the UK. The only difference is that while in America they are identified as Mother Goose nursery rhymes, a name with its roots in England, dating back to the beginning of the eighteenth century, the British have forgotten the existence of Mother Goose and now call them just nursery rhymes.
Nursery rhymes are musical even if only said (and not sung) which makes them very pleasing to the ear. Their rhythm and rhyme makes it also quite effortless to memorize them. Young children who cannot yet read, may do it with ease—this way building up their vocabulary and advancing pre–reading skills. Even though the overwhelming majority of nursery rhymes were originally not composed for children, most kids just love to recite them.
Some of the nursery rhymes we now know as mere childish songs were once parts of longer ballads and folk songs; some talk about long forgotten dissents and wars; some describe an ancient ritual; some are proverbs. They all have a piece of our human history attached to them, even if we are not quite sure today what it exactly is. And they all are so enchantingly beautiful too.