Talk:Baa, Baa, Black Sheep

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Good article Baa, Baa, Black Sheep has been listed as one of the Language and literature good articles under the good article criteria. If you can improve it further, please do so. If it no longer meets these criteria, you can reassess it.
September 5, 2012 Good article nominee Listed


Has anyone got any idea about the historical background to this nursery rhyme?

Possibly, but not our article. It points to a website at which has a lot of invented/traditional but false "histories" for nursery rhymes. For example its ring a ring a roses gives a plague history on no evidence. Given that nursery rhymes change very fast until written down many seem unlikely. The plague history was authoritatively demolised by Iona Opie in "the Singing Game". I don't know what she says about Baa Baa Black Sheep, but there will be something. Francis Davey 10:28, 10 March 2006 (UTC)

Dame v. Maid[edit]

I have heard the rhyme recited as either "One for the dame" or "One for the maid". Should the latter be put in brackets?

Sounds like a mistake to me since it doesn't rhyme and dame does (well near enough). Francis Davey 08:33, 23 October 2007 (UTC)

Anyone know[edit]

What is the source of this rhyme? Rich Farmbrough 16:05, 7 May 2005 (UTC)

Which Birmingham?[edit]

Many cities are named Birmingham. Which Birmingham is the article text talking about?

It is refering to the England city of Birmingham I remember something to this nature being mentioned on the news over here in the UK and here is a follow up article on the "scrapping" of the idea BBC News - Nursery rhyme ban scrapped

Coloured parents? Coloured children?![edit]

How ironic that in an article discussing racial sensitivity the outdated term "coloured" should be used twice. I know many black people who would be deeply offended to be referred to as 'coloured' (they wouldn't care less about Baa Baa Black Sheep, however).

the trouble is that what is "sensitive" varies from place to place. Here (in the UK) "black" seems to be favoured, and "colour" not approved of, but I know that is not true in other places.
Who says that "coloured" people are necessarily black? Maybe they're some other non-white ethnic group. Just a thought. Pygmypony (talk) 15:31, 23 October 2009 (UTC)

This alleged censorship is rubbish.[edit]

The various claims about banning the rhyme in different places in different times are complete bollocks, an urban myth that's been doing the rounds in the press - even dear old Auntie - since 1986. Ou tis 00:46, 11 October 2006 (UTC)

My little cousin learnt it as 'Baa Baa Rainbow Sheep'. Unfortunately, it does happen. From my personal experience, most people (including black people) think that it is ridiculous. I'm in England, by the way. Zestos (talk) 05:41, 23 January 2009 (UTC)

baa baa ethnic minority sheep[edit]

Baa baa ethnic minority sheep, have you any wool derived products? Yes sir, yes miss, three bags full. One for the democratically elected leader, one for the dame. One for the vertically challanged child that resident down the lane. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 12:18, 4 March 2007 (UTC).

baa baa corporate sheep[edit]

Yes this corporate sheep distributes its yeild 1/3rd portion to the promoters (masters), 1/3rd to labours (dame/maid who looked after the sheep) 1/3rd for the social commitment (who is lying down the lane) comment by leo, 5 April 2007

Baa Baa Rainbow Sheep[edit]

Under "Modern Alterations" this page currently reads the following: 'These changes have met with considerable criticism, many citing it as "political correctness gone mad", because of the fact that the rhyme was changed for racial and not for educational reasons.'

However, one of the sources cited, Nursery opts for 'rainbow' sheep, quotes the charity, Parents and Children Together (Pact) as saying that the changes were made for educational reasons. I am going to edit this section to read the following instead: 'These changes have been met with considerable criticism, many citing it as "political correctness gone mad', because of the presumption that the rhyme was changed for racial reasons, despite the claim of one of the bodies involved that the changes were educationally motivated.'

I also wonder how appropriate the phrasing "several kindergartens and nurseries have been teaching children different versions of the rhyme" is when the sources linked only talk about two or three specific cases in the United Kingdom. --Foetus In Fetu 18:58, 13 April 2007 (UTC)

It's ridiculous! "Baa Baa rainbow sheep" doesn't exactly go. The rhyme isn't referring to skin colour anyway, plus since when was there rainbow sheep? At least you get black sheep! I'm sure some black people feel that by the schools doing that, it is making the rhyme racist. Whoniverse93 talk? 23:45, 11 July 2009 (UTC)
One day after work recently, some of the locals had a little creche of nursery-age kids going in the corner of the pub. A few nursery rhymes naturally got trotted out. All the kids sung Baa Baa Rainbow Sheep. I live in a non-distinct part of Tameside.
I don't know if that means the relevent section of page needs to be updated. Either way I think there's a few racist nursery teachers in my part of the world. Aheyfromhome (talk) 20:38, 26 June 2011 (UTC)

I hav[edit]

its swedish also, by a guy named augustBold text —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 08:47, 10 September 2007 (UTC)

"Cries" vs. "Lives"[edit]

I have heard the rhyme as "the little boy who cries down (or in) the lane." Perhaps put it in brackets or as a different version? Graymornings 03:14, 17 September 2007 (UTC)

Dame should read DANE.[edit]

This nursery rhyme is consistently miswritten (and recited) by referring to a Dame. In the middle ages women were regarded by and large as chattels of men and would in any event never be referred to as "dame" which is the shortened word for the French Madame (meaning 'my lady') and to which would be apportioned the name of the husband. However large parts of England were occupied by Vikings and their descendants and were known as Danes (for Danish). Indeed, were a line drawn from the Wash to Chester everything North of that line was under DaneLaw. Places like Leicester and York being under Dane Law are well documented and existed before the Norman (ie French language conquest)and after the conquest the cultural elements remained deeply entrenched in the countryside right up to the times of the great wool trade where traders not only provided wool for domestic consumption but for export too. So "one for the Master" (home), "one for the Dane" (established export) and "one for the little boy down the lane" (anyone else)Charlesenglish 00:14, 23 October 2007 (UTC)

Nice theory, but is there, in fact, any evidence for it? I bet no. Nursery rhymes don't generally represent ancient traditions so its very unlikely that something dating back to the Danelaw would turn up. If you can prove it, produce the references (and I don't mean another website or recent book with the same theory). Francis Davey 08:33, 23 October 2007 (UTC)

Is there a source for little Sean from Aberdeen?[edit]

I have moved to here the bit about a second verse mentioning Sean from Aberdeen pending a reliable source. The text in the article was:

An occasionally used second verse is:
Thank you said the master,
Thank you said the dame,
Thank you said the little Sean
Who lives in Aberdeen.

Does anyone have a reference for this? Stumps 22:05, 30 November 2007 (UTC)

No - but where I live te second verse is

Thank you said the master,
Thank you said the dame,
Thank you said the little boy,
Who Livesdown the lane.

Perhaps it could just be mentioned? Vitual aelita (talk) 23:02, 29 November 2008 (UTC)

Unsourced versions[edit]

This article has several versions that are not supported by citations. I plan to remove them to stop the article getting out of hand as editors have a habit of adding endless and often pointless versions once it begins. If you have citations please supply them. If you have reasoned objections to this move please give them in this section.--Sabrebd (talk) 07:33, 29 May 2009 (UTC)

Baa, Baa, White Sheep?[edit]

Am I right to think that in Britain there is a version, Baa Baa White Sheep, where the sheep has no wool for anyone:

Baa, Baa, white sheep, have you any wool? No sir, No sir, No bags full, None for the master, none for the dame, and none for the little boy who lives down the lane.

I'm sure I remember being taught this in nursery. Could anyone back me up? Lwebdan (talk) 20:14, 6 December 2009 (UTC)

I've not heard that before. I was born in the UK and lived in various parts of England and Scotland and can't recall hearing it. However, I found this from Australia, it's on the last page. I also came across this from the US. It has black, white and grey. The interesting thing there is that it's spelt "grey" and not the usual US spelling of "gray". Enter CambridgeBayWeather, waits for audience applause, not a sausage 01:33, 7 December 2009 (UTC)
The odds are that the white sheep version is one of the many local variations. They come and they go, often in attempts to lengthen the rhyme. Some make it into print, but none has so far become an accpeted part of the rhyme.--SabreBD (talk) 07:39, 7 December 2009 (UTC)

Multiple verses[edit]

As a child in the 1960's I can remember singing a three or four verse version of this from a school textbook. Each verse dealt with a different colour sheep, It also came with a commentary explaining the song. I can't remember exactly, but the first verse was on the lines of

Baa Baa Black Sheep have you any wool? Yes sir, no sir none for you One for the Master, One for the Dane None for the working man who lives down the lane

second verse - something like Baa Baa White sheep have you any wool? Yes sir, No sir, None for you One for the Bishop, The rest for the King None for the little man who kisses his ring

third verse was Baa Baa Brown Sheep Yes Sir, Yes Sir, all for you

fourth verse spotty sheep? Pied sheep? I'm sure it dealt with mixed colour (Jacobs-type) animals

As explained in the old book (and I can't remember the name or author) the whole song is a social commentary on the relative merits of coloured and white wool. In medieval times white wool was at a premium as it could be dyed, and as a result white sheep became predominant. Their fleeces were all taken for sale: either by the landowner, or the King or the Bishop as taxes. The black wool would be taken for monastic garments The peasant who raised the sheep was left with the small amount of brown or mixed colour wool that wasn't required by the overlords I also have half a memory that the later verses also dealt with the wool colours being handed out to the various monastic houses: i.e. black to the Dominicans, brown the Franciscans (who were major landowners)

As I said before, I've only given an approximation from a near fifty year old memory, so please don't take what I've written as exact. Olddemdike (talk) 01:22, 1 November 2010 (UTC)

Its all very interesting, but without some reliable sources, there is not a lot we can add to the article. Most of these neat explanations are just speculation, we can note them as such if we have valid sources that outline them.--SabreBD (talk) 08:02, 1 November 2010 (UTC)

File:The Black sheep illustrated by William Wallace Denslow.jpg to appear as POTD soon[edit]

Hello! This is a note to let the editors of this article know that File:The Black sheep illustrated by William Wallace Denslow.jpg will be appearing as picture of the day on December 29, 2010. You can view and edit the POTD blurb at Template:POTD/2010-12-29. If this article needs any attention or maintenance, it would be preferable if that could be done before its appearance on the Main Page so Wikipedia doesn't look bad. :) Thanks! howcheng {chat} 02:50, 27 December 2010 (UTC)

Picture of the day
Baa, Baa, Black Sheep

W. W. Denslow's illustration of "Baa, Baa, Black Sheep", a children's nursery rhyme that dates to 1744, when it was published in Tommy Thumb's Pretty Song Book. Since then, the words have remained mostly intact with few changes. The rhyme is sung to a variant of the 1761 French melody Ah! vous dirai-je, Maman, which is also used for "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" and the alphabet song. As with many nursery rhymes, attempts have been made to find origins and meanings for the rhyme, but no theories have been definitively proven. Denslow's illustration accompanied a 1901 edition of Mother Goose.

Restoration: Lise Broer
ArchiveMore featured pictures...

None for the little boy?[edit]

The way I know it, and as reported by Scholastic's The Real Mother Goose, the final stanza ends:

But none for the little boy
Who cries in the lane.

Should this be mentioned as an alternative? It certainly is a significant difference.

--Jason Fruit (talk) 16:54, 15 May 2011 (UTC)

I have to admit I have never heard that version, but significant alternatives are fine as long as they are properly sourced.--SabreBD (talk) 16:56, 15 May 2011 (UTC)

GA Review[edit]

This review is transcluded from Talk:Baa, Baa, Black Sheep/GA1. The edit link for this section can be used to add comments to the review.

Reviewer: Sarastro1 (talk · contribs) 19:01, 27 August 2012 (UTC)

To be honest, I was reluctant to take this one as I did not think that the article could be comprehensive looking at its length. But having looked in several places, it looks like I am wrong and this article seems to sum up the thinking pretty well. Looking good.

  • "It was first recorded in 1731.": Recorded is ambiguous here; the reader may assume recorded in the musical sense. And maybe combine with the the first sentence: ""Baa, Baa, Black Sheep" is an English nursery rhyme, the earliest surviving version of which dates from 1731.
Yes check.svg Done--SabreBD (talk) 22:14, 27 August 2012 (UTC)
  • "Uncorroborated theories that have been advanced to explain the meaning of the rhyme include that it is a complaint against Medieval English taxes on wool and that it is about the slave trade.": The main body does not say that the all the theories are uncorroborated; also, this is a bit of a mouthful. Maybe "Explanations of the meaning of the rhyme have suggested it may be a complaint against Medieval English taxes on wool, or concerning the slave trade."
Yes check.svg Done--SabreBD (talk) 22:14, 27 August 2012 (UTC)
  • Why quotation marks around "political correctness" (maybe worth a link?) A little too much like scare quotes.
  • WP:MOSNUM: "twentieth century"→"20th century".
WP:ORDINAL says that century can be in words or figures.--SabreBD (talk) 22:14, 27 August 2012 (UTC)
  • "It has been used in literature and popular culture.": A bit vague; used how? And a short, choppy sentence
Yes check.svg Done--SabreBD (talk) 22:14, 27 August 2012 (UTC)
  • The page is wrong on ref 2, according to google books; should be p. 174.
Yes check.svg Done--SabreBD (talk) 22:14, 27 August 2012 (UTC)
  • "have been collected across Great Britain and North America": Not supported by ref.
It is if you use the buttons to look at all the other versions.--SabreBD (talk) 22:14, 27 August 2012 (UTC)
  • Given that the first two surviving versions are given, are there any theories (either about this specific nursery rhyme, or generic ones) how long it existed before this? (I appreciate this crosses over into the stuff about the theories of what it means)
Generally reliable commentators do not assume it is much older than the earliest reference. Probably cannot expand this without straying into original research.--SabreBD (talk) 22:14, 27 August 2012 (UTC)
  • Page number wrong for ref 4 (according to google preview)? Also, seems to cross across 2 pages, and the linking of words and music is on the next page.
Yes check.svg Done--SabreBD (talk) 22:14, 27 August 2012 (UTC)
  • "Katherine Elwes Thomas in The Real Personages of Mother Goose (1930) suggested that the rhyme referred to resentment at the heavy taxation on wool,[5] this has particularly been taken to refer to the medieval English 'Great' or 'Old Custom' wool tax of 1275, which survived until the fifteenth century." Suggest splitting this sentence after first wool.
Yes check.svg Done--SabreBD (talk) 19:24, 5 September 2012 (UTC)
  • "However, this tax did not involve the collection of one-third to the king, and one-third to the church, but a less punitive sum of 6s 8d to the Crown per sack, about 5 per cent of the value.": Does this ref directly refer to "Baa baa"? Otherwise, this may be WP:OR, or at best, WP:SYNTHESIS.
I cannot get access to this passage so I am playing safe by deleting this.--SabreBD (talk) 19:24, 5 September 2012 (UTC)
  • Several instances of single quotation marks, when WP:MOS requires double.
Yes check.svg Done--SabreBD (talk) 19:01, 5 September 2012 (UTC)
  • Not completely convinced by the "linguistics" section, and not too clear what it means by "varieties of English".
I have no idea and I do not have access to the source to check. This is confusing in its current form, so I have removed it. If someone puts back a clearer version that is well and good.--SabreBD (talk) 19:01, 5 September 2012 (UTC)
  • Images seem fine, although not sure of the value of Blacksheep2.
Having two Denslow images is probably overkill. I will try to find something from a contrasting period sometime in the future (I take it that is not really a GA issue).--SabreBD (talk) 19:01, 5 September 2012 (UTC)
  • Spotchecks OK, apart from the minor issues above.
  • As far as broad coverage is concerned, a check of the sources and elsewhere is giving me the same picture as this article, so it looks OK. I'm not sure if this would be enough for FA without checking further, but happy for GA. May be worth a check of places like JSTOR for more academic sources for the future.

Placing this on hold for now, but no big obstacles to passing. Sarastro1 (talk) 19:49, 27 August 2012 (UTC)

Comment: This review has now been open for a week, and I think we need to see some progress very soon. Sarastro1 (talk) 21:47, 3 September 2012 (UTC)

I think that is everything. Let me know if I missed something.--SabreBD (talk) 19:24, 5 September 2012 (UTC)

OK, all looks good. Passing now. Sarastro1 (talk) 19:49, 5 September 2012 (UTC)

Many thanks.--SabreBD (talk) 20:06, 5 September 2012 (UTC)7

Political correctness crap[edit]

This article's interpretation that there was some sort of legitimate controversy surrounding actual amendments of the lyrics in accordance with PC values is not supported by the Loony Left which states that it was all the fabrication of British tabloids and subsequently reprinted over the years.

If Wikipedia is supposed to be taken seriously surely there should be parity between articles of the same subject? Considering the amount of detail on this topic, this article's version is as best biased and at worse factually incorrect. 23:31, 22 January 2013 (UTC)

That is odd, because I thought that is what this article does say.--SabreBD (talk) 22:50, 24 January 2013 (UTC)

Trivia about the hidden meaning behind it[edit]

In swedish, the verse is sung as "bä bä vita lamm" which translates directly to "ba ba WHITE lamb".

The english verse was probably first though. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:30, 25 August 2013 (UTC)

Black sheep idiom[edit]

Does this nursery rhyme have anything to do with black sheep's usage as a bad or sticking out person? (As in He is the black sheep of the family; he never goes to church.) (talk) 23:28, 2 September 2013 (UTC) high schooler