Meaning Behind the Nursery Rhyme “It’s Raining, It’s Pouring”

While set to bouncing, carefree jingles, some nursery rhymes are not always the delightful little ditties that their arrangements make them seem. Some remark on historic evils, medieval illnesses, and even death.

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So well shrouded by their jolly compositions, it often takes a sharp ear, and abandonment of preconceived notions, to really get to the heart of the age-old sing-a-longs. “It’s Raining, It’s Pouring,” for instance, is not a lovely verse about a nap.

Little is known about the origins of “It’s Raining, It’s Pouring.” Set to a tune, not unlike that of “A Tisket, A Tasket,” the earliest known recording of the rhyme has been traced back to 1939.

Comprised of just four simple lines, “It’s Raining, It’s Pouring” says so much in one verse:

It’s raining, it’s pouring.
The old man is snoring.
He bumped his head and went to bed,
And he couldn’t get up in the morning.

An old man is napping on a rainy day. He gets up, and in his drowsy state, he hits his head. He then takes himself to bed so he can sleep off his injury. However, he did not wake once morning came. Catchy, concise, and harmless, right? Wrong.

The nursery rhyme is listed as an example in Andrew Kaye’s Essential Neurosurgery. A section of the medical book discussing “deteriorating conscious state” reads, “This is the most important neurological sign, particularly when it develops after a ‘lucid’ interval. It is essential that the drowsiness that occurs in a patient following head injury is not misinterpreted just as the patient wishing to sleep.”

In the book, Kaye notes the seemingly innocent rhyme is actually a “classic description of an extradural hematoma [acute hemorrhage] leading to drowsiness and death.”

According to, an extradural hematoma is when blood collects in the space between the skull and the outer protective lining, or the dura mater, of the brain. Occurring because of a head injury, an extradural hematoma is a serious condition that requires emergency treatment and, at times, an operation is needed to remove the hematoma.

Some conscious symptoms of an extradural hematoma include drowsiness, severe headache, nausea, vomiting, confusion, and speech difficulties. If someone showing these symptoms were to lose consciousness, it could be detrimental.

While its catchiness harbors a deadly truth, perhaps “It’s Raining, It’s Pouring” was a form of early medical PSA, urging those who suffer head injuries to seek help right away.

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