Behind the Gender-Swapping Nursery Rhyme “Georgie Porgie”

It can be a prickly matter when talking about the sexes. In one sense, humanity is dependent upon the two intermingling and reproducing. In another, especially today, those interactions can be fraught with error and embarrassment.

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But when it comes to the 19th-century nursery rhyme “Georgie Porgie,” all of those issues are put on display in a neat little package. Here below, we will explore the history of the rhyme, its meaning and how it’s used more recently on the playground.

The Meaning of the Rhyme

The original lyrics of the rhyme are as follows:

Georgie Porgie, pudding and pie,
Kissed the girls and made them cry,
When the girls came out to play,
Georgie Porgie ran away.

Here we have a young boy (or perhaps a young man) who is not taken very seriously. He is not called George or Mr. So-And-So. He is called Georgie Porgie—even the name sounds pudgy and weak.

In the second line, after introductions, we see that Georgie kissed the girls. It would seem either those kisses weren’t desired or, perhaps because he kissed so many of them, he made them jealous. Likely, it’s the former. But either way, the plural “girls” indicates there were several girls he kissed and thus, he has a big appetite.

The third line, we meet the girls again. They’ve come out to play. If they’re young girls, that likely means in the field or schoolyard. If they’re older, it means some sort of social gathering. And then in the fourth line, ashamed of what he’s done, or perhaps fearful of retribution, Georgie flees.

It would seem his actions and appetite have gotten him and all those around him in trouble or in some kind of pickle. The moral? Control yourself!

Prince Regent George IV of Britain

While it’s often the case that nursery rhymes like this are written and remembered for more than one reason—indeed, if history is to keep a rhyme over hundreds of years, there is likely not one single meaning or reference point that makes it valuable—many believe it has to do with Prince Regent George IV of Britain, a rotund and voracious ruler. He also is said to have left behind many children.

Playground Usage

Today, the rhyme is often used on the playground to poke fun at other children. Either those who have crushes on the opposite sex or are overweight—or both. The names can be switched for the subjects, thus switching the genders of the main characters, too. Commonly, the name Rosie Posie is used for girls.

Final Thoughts

As noted above, the final meaning of the rhyme is to keep your hands to yourself. Don’t overeat, don’t overindulge and don’t kiss the girls—especially when not wanted.

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