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Origins: To Market, to Market

Pigs. Cute.

To market, to market, to buy a fat pig
Home again, home again, jiggity-jig;
To market, to market, to buy a fat hog
Home again, home again, joggity-jog.

Most of the nursery rhymes featured in Origin Wednesdays have their earliest publication dates in the 1700s, with only one so far emerging in the 1900s. To Market, to Market lies at the other extreme.

A rhyme likely to have preceeded the version we know today appears in Songs for the Nursery 1805:

To market, to market
To buy a penny bun,
Home again, home again,
Market is done.

The penny bun of this version evolves into a plum bun, before evolving further so that the rhyme appears in Halliwell’s The Nursery Rhymes of England thus:

To market, to market, to buy a plumb cake,
Home again, home again ne’er one is baked;
The baker is dead and all his men
And we must go to market again.

The ‘to market, to market’ motif is a popular one. Here it is again in another rhyme from The Nursery Rhymes of England :

To market, to market, a gallop, a trot,
To buy some meat to put in the pot,
Three pence a quarter, a groat a side,
If it hadn’t been killed, it must have died.

Each version of the rhyme describes a shopping trip, sucessful or otherwise. Though he rhyme in full is not published until the 1800s, evidence suggests it is much older.

From Opie:

In 1598 John Florio published his dictionary A Worlde of Wordes, or Most Copious, and exact Dictionarie in Italian and English. The word Abomba is defined as ‘a man’s home or resting place: home againe, home againe’. In the augmented edition published in 1611 the definition is expanded, ‘Abomba, is properly the place where children playing hide themselves… Also as we used to say Home againe home againe, market is done. Florio may have know the rhyme in his childhood fifty years previously, but it does not appear to have been written down again until the ninteenth century.

The number of variations also suggests a longer history than we can measure by publication dates alone. In a change to the usual pattern of these posts, what To Market, To Market is about is clear, it is its history that is uncertain.

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