Eagles may soar, but weasels don’t get sucked into jet engines. ~~ John Benfield
Some weasel took the cork out of my lunch. ~~ WC Fields
Every now and then when your life gets complicated and the weasels start closing in, the only cure is to load up on heinous chemicals and then drive like a bastard from Hollywood to Las Vegas … with the music at top volume and at least a pint of ether. ~~ Hunter S Thompson, “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”
I startled a weasel who startled me, and we exchanged a long glance. . . . Our eyes locked, and someone threw away the key. ~~ Annie Dillard, “Teaching a Stone to Talk”
Love is like racing across the frozen tundra on a snowmobile which flips over, trapping you underneath. At night, the ice-weasels come. ~~ Friedrich Nietzsche
“One of our defects as a nation is a tendency to use what have been called ‘weasel words’. When a weasel sucks eggs the meat is sucked out of the egg. If you use a ‘weasel word’ after another there is nothing left of the other.” ~~ Theodore Roosevelt
The Bard and his Mustelids, 1564-1616 AD
William Shakespeare, who was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1564, was around during the reigns of both Elizabeth I and James I, and was a favorite of both monarchs.
He is without a doubt the most famous literary figure of that time and several of his plays have references to mustelids sprinkled through them!
In Henry V there is a reference to “the weasel Scot” who comes sneaking and sucks her princely eggs!
You’ll find that old Will enjoys talking about weasels sucking eggs because in As You Like It, a chap called Jaques reckons he “… can suck melancholy out of a song as a weasel sucks eggs“.
In Cymbeline, women are said to be “… as quarrelous as the weasel …“. Hrumph! If Shakespearel were around now, I would certainly take issue with him about that statement. Quarrelous, indeed!!
Then in Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark looks at a cloud and thinks it looks like a weasel (very fertile imagination, Hamlet old boy).
And last but not least, in The First Part of Henry IV, Lady P reckons that “A weasel hath not such a deal of spleen …“.
So with all the descriptions in Shakespeare’s plays, we must assume that the medieval English folk had quite a lot to do with weasels, polecats and ferrets in their day.
Well, that’s my take on it anyhow and I’m sticking to it!
Pop goes the weasel!
From what I could find out, ‘to pop’ was apparently slang for pawning. However there are a number of different explanations for “weasel”.
One was that it stood for ‘weasel and stoat’ (Cockney rhyming slang for “coat”) and other said weasel was a corruption of ‘whistle’ and again, in Cockney rhyming slang, ‘whistle and flute’ referred to “suit”. Either way, it has something to do with a man’s jacket.
There are also opinions that the word ‘weasel’ referred to a tool used by cobblers, hatters and tailors or was something like a shuttle or bobbin, which could also be pawned.
So, the song has nothing to do with weasels popping but everything to do with going down to the pub, drinking till all your money was gone, then pawning your suit or the tools you worked with to get more money so that you could drink more.
The Eagle refers to a pub in Hackney, North London, situated on the corner of City Road and Shepherdess Walk. In 1825 the old pub was rebuilt as a music hall, which Charles Dickens used to go to, then in 1901 the hall was pulled down and the present pub built.
It’s not clear who was the author of the rhyme but one name suggested is W R Mandale.
You can find a fuller description on the origins of the song both at the World Wide Words website, while this site shows a picture of the Eagle pub with the verse actually written on the outside.
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