Baa Baa Black Seep, Some Boys Cry

Nursery rhymes have become sanitized as they increasingly became the possession of a class of people that could afford the luxury of raising children to believe that all was right with the world, and that authority figures would make sure everything was okay.

Children today learn the rhyme "Baa Baa Black Sheep" in the following form:

Baa, baa, black sheep,
Have you any wool?
Yes, sir, yes, sir,
Three bags full;
One for the master,
And one for the dame,
And one for the little boy
Who lives down the lane

But the original version of Bah Bah Black Sheep, found in Tommy Thumb's Pretty Song Book of 1744 has:

Bah, Bah, a black Sheep,
Have you any wool?
Yes merry I have,
Three bags full,
Two for my master,
One for my dame,
None for the little boy
That cries in the lane.

Today, the only thing about this rhyme — in its sanitized version — that has ever given the well-fed, well-bred and well-read any discomfort has been the potential racial implications of the word "black." Leaving others to cry foul at political correctness of "updating" it to remove the color term. There was a spat about it in the 1980s.

Yet neither realizes, or would like to realize, how much whitewashing has already happened to the rhyme. The original point about social inequality has been successfully bleached away.

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