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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Mother Goose Investigations - Boys and Girls, What They Are Made Of

Everyone knows what little boys and little girls are made of. Boys are made of gastropods like slugs and snails as well as puppy dogs' tails, except puppy dogs attached to puppies are quite nice (even though for a time people had some preference for dogs without tails) and snails have a certain appeal. Frogs and snails is another variant, and frogs can be even more beautiful than snails.

Girls meanwhile are made of sugar and spice-some spices are not very nice, a lot of people don't like curry for instance, and Bombay mix can be pretty pungent. The next line is 'all things nice' which serves well as a rhyme, but 'getting drunk' to point out something innocuous is quite nice, but it can't be what they were getting at. 'Nice' in this sense probably more likely means well-behaved.

The rhyme dates back to the 19th Century, the first version of the poem said that boys are made of 'snips and snails', a snip being an elver or small eel. There were various other stanzas, now lost, describing babies, old men, old women and so on.

These terms often appear in pop culture, especially it is difficult to define the non-biological difference between boys and girls, apart from what we give people. All it really does it construct some similes about boys and girls, and similes by their very nature aren't concrete. The Greek symbols based on circles-the boy has an arrow pointing to the right, and the girl has an upside down cross-seem to get no closer to who is who. It is strange how long the prudishness to the difference has been going on. It makes you wonder if it comes from a child asking 'What the opposite sex is made of?'

Paul Wimsett is an eBay seller and has also self published work on Createspace and

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