Ring Around the Rosy

Informant Background:

This informant is a senior at USC in the Naval ROTC program. The daughter of a navy chaplain, she spent a lot of her life traveling. Despite having to move, she still claims she had a every enjoyable childhood and made many lifelong friends because of it. She can easily recount the many games and stories her and her friends would play.

Informant’s Story:

“I’m sure everyone’s heard about ring around the rosy. You play it when you’re really little. We all grab hands, side hop to the left and sing the song. [me: can you sing it?] Haha, sure I guess. it goes ‘ring around the rosy, a pocket full of posies, ashes, ashes, we all fall down,’ and when you say ‘we all fall down,’ everyone drops to the ground.”


This little game has been around for centuries and originates from 17th century England when the great plague was in full swing. It has two versions; the American “ring around the rosy” and British “ring a ring o’ roses” and is about the stages of an infected person. Both versions are identical but have a one line difference (besides the wording of the first line)


Ring a ring o’ roses,
A pocket full of posies,
A tissue A tissue

We all fall down.


Ring a round the rosie,
A pocket full of posies,
Ashes! Ashes!

We all fall down.

When Someone had the plague, a common symptom was a rosy rash, and constant sneezing. Those living around the sick and dying would carry a pocket full of posies in order alleviate themselves from the smell of death. The English version refers to tissues, referring to the sneezing caused b the illness, but the American version is slightly darker, with a christian connotation. the phrase “ashes-to-ashes” comes from a verse in the bible and is used to burial rites. The final line of both is “we all fall down” meaning death. This is a prime example of how the morbidity of past is forgotten, yet that which it has created is not. By that I mean, it’s interesting how something so seemingly innocent and used by young children is about the gruesome death of thousands and no one seems to realize.