Hey Iona Opie, if you’re listening, did you know that the phrase “sit cross-legged” is now unintelligible to preschoolers? It’s been replaced by “criss-cross applesauce.” How cute. At first I thought it was a regional variant, but I was wrong: it’s now the standard in both California and Southern Ontario.
Was this shift organic? Maybe. Another recent shift, certainly organic, is the replacement of “slide down my rain barrel” in the old skipping rhyme with “slide down my rainbow.” That one makes sense: nobody today can imagine sliding down a rain barrel onto a cellar door, if they ever could.
What is certainly not organic is the dumbing down of nursery rhymes in Eila’s schoolwork. Her version of Little Bo Peep contains the lines: “Leave them alone and they’ll come home/ And bring their tails behind them.” How wan! And what will she make of the original phrase — “dragging their tails behind them” — when she comes across it in literature or conversation? It will mean nothing to her.
Even more execrable is “the little dog laughed to see such a sport.” Such a sport?! I have no comment.