Page last updated at 15:40 GMT, Friday, 30 January 2009

Drunken sailors left out of rhyme

Beer barrel
The pirates are being tickled, rather than sobering up in the brig

"Drunken sailors" have been removed from the lyrics of a nursery rhyme in a government-funded books project.

But the Bookstart charity says the re-writing of What Shall We Do With the Drunken Sailor? has "absolutely nothing to do with political correctness".

The charity says that the shift from drunken sailor to "grumpy pirate" was to make the rhyme fit a pirate theme, rather than censorship.

"Put him in the brig until he's sober," has also been lost in the new version.

This latest ideological spat over nursery rhymes was sparked by the re-writing of What Shall We Do With the Drunken Sailor.

'Rusty razor'

Bookstart, a project that encourages parents to read with their young children, has produced a different version - with no references to alcohol-swigging sailors.

PIRATES AHOY!
What shall we do with the grumpy pirate?
What shall we do with the grumpy pirate?
What shall we do with the grumpy pirate?
Early in the morning

Hooray and up she rises
Hooray and up she rises
Hooray and up she rises
Early in the morning

Do a little jig and make him smile
Do a little jig and make him smile
Do a little jig and make him smile
Early in the morning

Instead the hard-drinking sea shanty has been turned into something gentler, with lyrics such as "Tickle him till he starts to giggle, Early in the morning."

The charity has dismissed accusations that this is a politically-correct attempt to avoid the alcohol references, saying that it was a case of re-cycling a familiar tune for reading events that were based on a pirate theme.

"We wanted to find a rhyme which would fit in with this subject and this one has a tune which is instantly recognisable by all," said a statement from Bookstart.

"The inclusion of action lyrics like 'wiggle' and 'tickle' offer parents and small children an opportunity to interact, have fun and enjoy acting out the rhyme together."

Although the Drunken Sailor version familiar to children already leaves out some of the saltier verses.

The original includes such suggestions as: "Shave his belly with a rusty razor", "Stick him in a bag and beat him senseless" and "Put him in the hold with the captain's daughter."

The captain's daughter was a euphemism for a lashing from a cat o' nine tails.

Baa-baa

This is the latest in a series of disputes over nursery rhymes.

There were complaints in 2006 about pre-school children attending two nurseries in Oxfordshire being taught "Baa Baa Rainbow Sheep".

Last year, a story based on the Three Little Pigs fairy tale was turned down by a government agency's awards panel as the subject matter could offend Muslims.

A digital book, re-telling the classic story, was rejected by judges who warned that "the use of pigs raises cultural issues".

However, a study in 2004 showed that nursery rhymes exposed children to far more violent incidents than an average evening watching television - including Humpty Dumpty's serious head injury.



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