In an old graveyard in Boston, Mass., there are several tombstones bearing the name of Goose. Some people claim that one of them marks the grave of Mother Goose. Her real "nomen" was supposed to have been Elizabeth Vergoose. "Ver vaist." (Who knows?)
In 1760, John Newbery, the first English publisher of children's books, brought out"Mother Goose's Melody," a tiny "bukh" llustrated with woodcuts. It contained 52 rhymes, such as "Ding Dong Bell," "Little Tommy Tucker," and "Margery Daw," as well as 15 songs from Shakespeare's plays. Isiah Thomas, a publisher in Worcester, Mass., republished Newbery's book in 1785.
In 2006, Brett Nicholas Moore published "Tales of Brother Goose," satirizing Mother Goose stories with modern dialogue and cynical humor. One of the 23 stories is a short Shakespearean play about a queen who kills the king because of his long monologues.
Fast forward to 2008. Jeffrey and Lila Dubinsky have written a book titled, "Mother Gooseberg's Book of Jewish Nursery Rhymes." Get to the "bicher-krom" (book store) immediately and buy it; it's "vunderlich."
Today's "tateh-mameh" know the rhyme that goes:
Little Jack Horner
Sat in the corner
Eating his Christmas pie.
He put in his thumb,
And pulled out a plum,
and said, "What a brave boy am I."
The Mother Gooseberg's rendition:
Little Ms. Stempel
Sat in the temple
Eating her heart out, oy.
"My sister, she yachted
With people named Stoddard,
And now she's knocked up by a goy!
Of course, there's the favorite of all "di kinder," Humpty Dumpty...who sat on a wall. In 2008, it's "Handlen Dumpty":
Handlen Dumpty traded on Wall,
Handlen Dumpty's stock took a fall.
"In drerd mein gelt!" Clients made such a noise.
"We should have invested with cool-headed goys!"
It's hard to describe which tale I liked best, but these three are certainly at the top of the list:
Ipish Pisher Yiddish Moe
Ipish pisher Yiddish Moe
Caught a cold on shabbes--woe!
Sniffled through the service--oh!
His - mother - told - him
Eat - chicken - soup
And - he - said - no!
Hush, Little Boychik
Hush, little boychik, don't bother me.
We are Jews and can't have a Christmas tree.
We celebrate the Maccabees,
There's the menoah and latkes.
Stop; this, you've got a count of three.
"Farshtaist? Or I'll throw you across my knee!
And if that doesn't shut you up--
Mama's gonna give you a luch in kup!
Perhaps a zetz will stop your whine:
Mama's gonna patsh your bare behind.
What? Oh, so you want to cry?
Mama's gonna give you a reason why!
No more presents; off to bed.
To think! Your grandpa was hassid!
Patty Klein, Patty Klein
Patty Klein, Patty Klein, besuleh,
Signed up with JDate, wants a fellah:
Jewish, good-looking, obedient to a fault.
She's thirty and single and picky--
"Mother Gooseberg's Book of Jewish Rhymes" is published by Kensington Publishing Corp. and sells for $9.95, U.S.; $13.50, CAN.
More Majorie Wolfe
All Things Jewish
Jewish Communities of the World