Sticks and Stones (nursery rhyme)
"Sticks and Stones" is an English language children's rhyme. It persuades the child victim of name-calling to ignore the taunt, to refrain from physical retaliation, and to remain calm and good-natured. It is reported to have appeared in The Christian Recorder of March 1862, a publication of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, where it is presented as an "old adage" in this form:
Sticks and stones will break my bones
But words will never harm me.
The phrase also appeared in 1872, where it is presented as advice in Tappy's Chicks: and Other Links Between Nature and Human Nature, by Mrs. George Cupples. The version used in that work runs:
Sticks and stones may break my bones
But names will never hurt me.
This sentiment is reflected in/reflects the common law of civil assault, which holds that mere name-calling does not give rise to a cause of action, while putting someone in fear of physical violence does.
- Gary Martin. "The Phrase Finder". Retrieved September 22, 2012.
- Cupples, Mrs. George [Ann Jane Dunn Douglas] (1872). Tappy's Chicks: And Other Links Between Nature and Human Nature (1872). London: Strahan & Co. p. 78.
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