- Children's singing game, known throughout the English-speaking world, and with many continental analogues. Nowadays, the game tends to be one of the first taught to children by adults, rather than being learnt from other children, and is therefore considered babyish by school-age children. The first known published versions are from the 1880s, although an American forerunner (Ring a ring a rosie A bottle full of posie All the girls in our town Ring for little Josie) is reported from 1790.The belief that the rhyme originated with the Great *Plague is now almost universal, but has no evidence to support it and is almost certainly nonsense. Early writers on the Plague do not mention the rhyme or, indeed, sneezing as a symptom of the disease, and the rhyme only appears 200 years later. The earlier folklore collectors do not make the connection between the rhyme and the Plague, and the idea appears to date only from the 1960s, but is now so widely believed as to be unshakable.See also *sneezing.■ Opie and Opie, 1985: 220-7; Gomme, 1898: ii. 108-11.
A Dictionary of English folklore. Jacqueline Simpson & Steve Roud. 2014.