Sticks and Stones

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"Sticks and Stones" is an English-language children's rhyme. The rhyme is used as a defense against name-calling and verbal bullying, intended to increase resiliency, avoid physical retaliation and to remain calm and good-living. The full rhyme is usually a variant of:

Sticks and stones may break my bones
But words will never hurt me.

The rhyme is an example of linguistic Siamese twins.

Earliest appearances[edit]

Alexander William Kinglake in his Eothen (written 1830, published in London, John Ollivier, 1844) used "golden sticks and stones".

It is reported[1] 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 may break my bones, but words will never break 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.[2] The version used in that work runs:

Sticks and stones may break my bones
But names will never harm me.

In popular music[edit]

"Sticks and Stones" has been used as the title for many albums and songs, and the rhyme's lyrics have also appeared in many songs, either in its usual form or with altered lyrics.

A version was featured in the Who's 1981 song, "The Quiet One", in which the vocals were performed by bassist John Entwistle, where he mentioned this term from another source he picked up and sang this term twice where he changed "your" from the first set to "my" in the second set.

Sticks and stones may break my bones
But names will never down you

Another version was featured in the Divine Comedy's 2004 song "Sticks and Stones" from the album Absent Friends, in which the vocals were performed by Neil Hannon.

Sticks and stones may break my body
But words can tear me apart

Other songs which have used or interpolated the rhyme include "Titanium" by David Guetta, "S&M" by Rihanna, "Fireball" by Pitbull, "Part of Me" by Katy Perry, "You Need to Calm Down" by Taylor Swift and "What About Us" by Pink.[3]

Sources[edit]

  1. ^ Martin, Gary. "The Phrase Finder". Phrases.org.uk. Retrieved September 22, 2012.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ "Samples of Sticks and Stones by Traditional Folk on WhoSampled".