This rhyme exists in many variations. Among those current today is:
Origins and meaning
The earliest versions of this rhyme published differ significantly in their wording. The first recorded version in Christmas Box, published in London in 1798, has wording similar to that in Mother Goose's Quarto or Melodies Complete, published in Boston, Massachusetts around 1825. The latter ran:
By around 1830 the reference to maids was being removed from the versions printed in nursery books. In 1842 James Orchard Halliwell collected the following version:
Rub a dub dub,
Three fools in a tub,
And who do you think they be?
The butcher, the baker,
The candlestick maker.
Turn them out, knaves all three.
- I. Opie and P. Opie, The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (Oxford University Press, 1951, 2nd edn., 1997), p. 447.