Talk:Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater

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Some commentary is expected for a Wikipedia entry, not just bare text. A good start would be the Annotated Mother Goose. Wetman 19:05, 20 Jan 2004 (UTC)

Pumpkin is an American fruit not found in England until recently. So it seems to me that this is more likely to be an American nursery rhyme than an English one. -- Derek Ross | Talk 00:00, Mar 20, 2005 (UTC)

About my Nov 3rd Revert: (Sorry, should have put this in the summary.) I added back the link someone deleted because it was the source of some of the content (hence being in the references section). While it may be a "useless link that added no additional information, just an opportunity to purchase nursery rhyme posters & papers," it is still the source and should be cited. I was not intending to endorse the site, rather to avoid claims of plagiarism.

The source here: is used to back the incorrect statement about the Ring Around the Rosie rhyme being about the black plague.

Also the simpletoremember page doesn't cite an author. That's a pretty good indication that it is NOT a reliable source. --Teddywithfangs 07:09, 22 November 2006 (UTC)

An alternte version I've heard is "Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater/ Had a wife but couldnt keep her/ Had another, didn't love her/ up the chimney did he shove her" but I can't remember where I heard it exactly.

None of the interpretation on this page is sourced reliably. The sexual interpretation of "pumpkin" seems implausible, and I can't find anything to substantiate that usage. The "pumpkin shell" interpretation also strikes me as sketchy, since "keep" could mean "support or maintain" rather than "confine." The whole thing reads like someone's speculations. I've deleted it, pending better sourcing. James Grimmelmann 15:05, 19 July 2007 (UTC)

There was a source given, do you have another source debunking the claims made ? Your doubts read like "someone's speculations" to me, so I've restored the material in question. StuRat 04:39, 21 August 2007 (UTC)
Well, actually, the source has no identifiable author, and it doesn't even support the whole section. All it does is support the claim that Peter's wife is unfaithful and that the pumpkin shell represents a chastity belt. The source does not support the claim that the first line is a reference to oral sex, says nothing about the competiting hypothesis that the pumpkin shell represents exile, and isn't even related to the last paragraph of the section. The section is also written in an unencyclopedic voice and self-contradicting. I've tagged the section as such, but without more robust sources it is probably better to remove it entirely. Kelvinc 01:38, 25 August 2007 (UTC)
If by "self-contradicting" you mean it offers multiple interpretations, I'd say that's a good thing. I also insist that any source is better than none, and there don't seem to be any sources debunking the interpretations given. If you don't like the voice, reword it, don't delete it (can you give us some examples ?). Removing that section will return the article to the useless stub it was before. StuRat 05:14, 25 August 2007 (UTC)
I've edited the voice somewhat, and added {{fact}} to where I think there are problems with verifiability. As you can see, there are a lot of problems. From WP:REF:

If it is doubtful but not harmful to the whole article or to Wikipedia, use the {{fact}} tag, but remember to go back and remove the claim if no source is produced within a reasonable time.

My problem with "contradiction" wasn't the multiple interpretations per se, but the fact that there was only one source to support the whole thing. I've added {{fact}} now so it's not an issue. Kelvinc 02:07, 27 August 2007 (UTC)


There are no verifiable sources in this article: all the sources we have so far do not even contain the name of the author. See WP:RS and WP:V. From WP:RS:

Jimmy Wales has said it is better to have no information at all than to include speculation, and has emphasized the need for sensitivity:

I can NOT emphasize this enough. There seems to be a terrible bias among some editors that some sort of random speculative 'I heard it somewhere' pseudo information is to be tagged with a 'needs a cite' tag. Wrong. It should be removed, aggressively, unless it can be sourced. This is true of all information, but it is particularly true of negative information about living persons.

Jimmy Wales. "WikiEN-l Zero information is preferred to misleading or false information", May 16, 2006 and May 19, 2006

I will likely start removing unverified information in a couple of days. Kelvinc 03:56, 30 August 2007 (UTC)

Deleted Possible Interpretations[edit]

If anyone has any verifiable sources on hypotheses on the meaning of the poem, then feel free to add them. The section which I removed was a mess of WP:OR with only one anonymous source from a proselytizing website, and even that site only gives support to just one of the many theories listed. Kelvinc (talk) 02:35, 18 December 2007 (UTC)

== Possible Interpretations ==

While literal interpretations of the rhyme are possible, they are generally non-sensical. Peter eats pumpkins, and didn't get along well with his wife. He decides to stick her inside a large pumpkin shell, which either separates them, helps control her or keeps her happy.

The pumpkin shell, some have suggested, may refer to the occasional practice of nobility exiling unwanted wives to distant castles or to nunneries.[citation needed] For example when Henry VIII of England put aside his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, for Anne Boleyn, he sent Catherine to remote Kimbolten Castle, hoping to persuade her to agree to the divorce. Henry's fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, was sent to Hever Castle. An interpretation of the rhyme is that Peter's wife was unagreeable and he had rid himself of her by placing her in the pumpkin 'shell'.[citation needed]

Another interpretation is that the pumpkin shell in the rhyme refers to a chastity belt [1]. In Colonial American English the word "pumpkin" was a euphemism for a woman's genitalia,[citation needed] suggesting that the rhyme is tongue in cheek humor referring to a colonial solution for infidelity. The assumption here is that if Peter had spent more time eating his wife and less time eating pumpkins, this precarious situation may have been avoided altogether.

The second, lesser known verse turns the rhyme considerably darker, telling how Peter has moved on to another woman, indicating that he had indeed somehow done away with his wife. Some have suggested that Peter removed his wife through murder, although that is not explicit in the text. Peter's problem in the second verse appears to be a loveless relationship solved through his educational self-improvement, thereby giving children a lesson to mind.[citation needed]

The eating of pumpkins could represent the damnation of an individual. Hollowed-out pumpkins were used in colonial America to ward away evil spirits on Halloween before the ascension of souls on All Saints Day. Possibly veiled in the rhyme is reference to Henry VIII accusing Anne Boleyn of witchcraft and sexual deviance in order to arrange her exeuction in 1536, and placing himself at the head of the Church of England to obtain yet another marriage.[citation needed]

Pinter's The Pumpkin Eater[edit]

My father asked, "Is this movie, or the play or novel it was based on related to the American nursery rhyme?" JesseW, the juggling janitor 18:21, 29 March 2009 (UTC)

Cheater Cheater Pumpkin Eater[edit]

Earliest version[edit]

The article cites The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes to say that Mother Goose ca. 1825 is the earliest surviving version. However, my copy of The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (2nd ed.) lists "Infant Institutes, 1797" in the entry for this rhyme (followed by MG's Quarto, c. 1825.) (p. 410). I don't know if this is a surviving source or not. --kundor (talk) 15:03, 20 November 2013 (UTC)

[Apparently it is] — Preceding unsigned comment added by Kundor (talkcontribs) 15:07, 20 November 2013 (UTC)


I recently encountered this rhyme taught as a beginner's piano piece to the tune that I know as "Oh, can you wash your father's shirt?" (using black keys only). Is this common in America? Bovlb (talk) 18:24, 31 December 2013 (UTC)