This is a British version of Pop Goes the Weasel. Many versions of this song exist. It dates back to the 1850's and was an old English dance (from about 1853) with the line "Pop Goes the Weasel".

Does the song mean anything? There are many possible theories!

Notes

Alan Bowman wrote: "What does it mean?

The rice and treacle relate to the week's shopping (twopenny or tupenny rice) was rice that cost two pence per pound and in order to pay for it poor people would pawn (pop) father's best suit (whistle [weasel] and flute = suit in Cockney rhyming slang). They would then redeem the pawn on Saturday when father got paid so that it was available for him to go to church on Sunday. The verse relating to the eagle refers to the Eagle public house on City Road and by the time a few drinks had been imbibed in that hostelry, there wouldn't be much money left…"

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Here's what I found about it in Notes and Queries (1905) by Oxford University Press:

"'Pop Goes The Weasel' - This phrase certainly refers to a purse made of weasel-skin, which opened and closed with a snap. The 'popping of the weasel' in the song (I believe a sort of music-hall ditty of the fifties) is the opening of the purse, and consequent spending of money, as the context shows. "Bang went saxpence" is a verbal, not a real, parallel. The following is all I can contribute. About 1857-8 I often heard scraps of the song sung, and the purse explanation was current and accepted naturally enough in our family, which possessed a weasel-skin purse. The head and two fore-paws came together, and were fastened with a small gold clasp. I remember two stanzas:

Up and down the City Road,
In and out the Eagle,
That's the way the money goes-
Pop goes the weasel.

Every night when I come home
Supper's on the table;
That's the way, &c.

In 1896-7 I found that my children had been taught by a nursemaid other stanzas, as follows :

Half a pound of tuppenny rice,
Half a pound of treacle,
Mix it up and make it nice-
Pop goes the weasel.

Every night when I come home
The monkey's on the table;
Take a broom and knock him off, &c.

This was crooned to a tune which may have been like the original tune or not, but, as neither nurse nor children had any "ear," was not reducible, when challenged, to any definite notation. [This first part in Notes and Queries was by H. K. St. J. S.]

[2nd part in Notes and Queries] My view of the reference in the above is as follows. I am afraid I cannot give my authority, it is so long since I read or heard it; but I supposed it was generally known and agreed upon. "Weasel, I believe, is (or was) the technical or slang name for a narrow iron implement which is used by tailors in cutting out their cloth, and without which it is impossible to carry on their trade. A certain tailor, residing, presumably, in the vicinity of Islington, was in the habit of travelling with too great frequency 'up and down the City Road' for the purpose of going 'in and out' a certain public-house entitled the 'Eagle.' His object in doing so is implied, but not expressly stated. In any case, 'that's the way the money goes,' and to such an extent does the said 'money go' that he is ultimately reduced to the dire necessity of 'popping' (i.e., pawning) his 'weasel.' This is clearly his last resource, as without his 'weasel' he is unable to earn his living, so that the poem evidently represents a man reduced to the last extremity, and comprises a somewhat laconic, but impressive sermon on the evils of drink.

I must have overlooked the former question on the subject, or I might have answered it then. I was not aware that there was any doubt on the subject. J. Fostek Palmer."

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Here's a similar rhyme that I found in A History of Nursery Rhymes (1899) by Percy B. Green:

Half a pound of twopenny rice,
Half a pound of treacle,
Stir it up and make it nice,
Pop goes the weasel.

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Thanks and Acknowledgements

Many thanks to Alan Bowman for contributing this version of Pop Goes the Weasel and for giving an explanation of its meaning.

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