The Mystery of Who Put the Kettle On

The other day, our almost 2 year old, Cesar, was walking around the house repeating the word, “Polly” over and over. I asked my 7 year old daughter, Iris, why he was saying this. I thought maybe there was a “Polly” who made a guest appearance on his favorite cartoon Dora the Explorer. Iris said she didn’t know but perhaps he was trying to say the nursery rhyme, “Polly Put the Kettle On.” I didn’t think that was a possibility since we hadn’t covered that particular ballad during our daily “Nursery Rhyme 101” lesson.

Of course, this then lead into us trying to sing “Polly Put the Kettle On.” We got through the first verse an then both Iris and I were stumped. Who took the kettle off??? We went through a series of names and couldn’t agree on anything. I then turned to the computer to look up this impending mystery of who did this amazing act of taking the kettle off.

My curiosity was quickly satisfied and it turned out it was Sukey!

The website where I found Polly Put the Kettle On also had a brief history about the song. This nursery rhyme was published in 1797. It was written by a man who had five children. Two of the children were girls who liked to play tea party (Polly and Sukey ..real name Susan). Polly would put the kettle on and Sukey would take it off. Their father was so amused by this that he wrote a song about it:

Polly put the kettle on,

Polly put the kettle on,

Polly put the kettle on,

We’ll all have tea.

Sukey take it off again,

Sukey take it off again,

Sukey take it off again,

They’ve all gone away.

Now, I don’t know about you but I find this absolutely fascinating that a poem with only 16 different words and only 4 different sentences was not only “published” but has been around for 215 years and kids still know (or kind of know this rhyme today…it actually doesn’t even rhyme) and sing this!

There are authors out there who have spent years on their “masterpiece” and cannot get published. My guess is this guy did not spend days or sleepless nights penning this and it has lasted the test of time.

The moral of the story: Write what you find amusing or interesting. Someday, someone will be in need to find out “who took the kettle off” or something equally important!


Cesar reading his nursery rhymes


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