Pop Goes the Weasel

You may have heard the song involving a too-rambunctious monkey and the weasel who goes “pop” around pointy shoe-maker’s tools and imagined a scenario where a rodent pricks his toe and bursts like a balloon. A closer inspection of these lyrics, however, reveals a much more harrowing narrative – this is the timeless tale of a weasel’s acquisition of his very first handgun.

Round and round the cobbler’s bench
The monkey chased the weasel
The monkey thought it was all in good fun
Pop! goes the weasel

The juicy drama unfolds, like most juicy dramas, around a cobbler’s bench. The monkey, easily two to four times the weasel’s size, thought it was hilarious to chase the skinny bastard around a bench littered with picks, nails and other terribly dangerous items. I think it’s fair to assume that damn monkey had been terrifying the weasel for years for his own cruel amusement. Clearly, this monkey lacks the moral fiber to have been perturbed by a case of spontaneous weasel combustion. So the weasel takes the only logical course of action available, and fires off his handgun.

The word “cobbler” lends the tale an added layer of sketchiness. Most commonly, it’s interpreted to mean a shoe-maker. But the other kind of cobbler may be more relevant – the kind of illegal professional who creates false passports, visas, diplomas, and other documents. So we have an innocuous shoe-repair shop fronting a darker, more lucrative side-trade. No wonder the monkey’s such a brute; he’s not just some ill-trained pet. He’s the cobbler’s enforcer.

Giddy with exhilaration after firing his first gun and cowing his bully co-worker into submission, the strapped rodent goes on a mad terror spree through the streets.

A penny for a spool of thread
A penny for a needle
That’s the way the money goes
Pop! goes the weasel

From forgery, the weasel has quickly progressed to penny-thieving and shaking down hard-taxed merchants. Where will his depravity take him next?

Every night when I get home
The monkey’s on the table
Take a stick and knock it off
Pop! goes the weasel.

The relationship between the narrator and the weasel finally becomes clear; the monkey, who had spared no qualm in bullying the poor scrawny weasel, is held in check by the narrator only with nightly beatings-by-stick. It seems the narrator was supposed to be in charge all along. Unfortunately, the weasel’s had enough of that monkey’s sass – if before the gunblast was enough to frighten the monkey in submission, now it is enough to finish him. There is a clear message to the narrator in this as well: the weasel will now be calling the shots.

If you’re skeptical that the song is meant to tell the tale of a seedy criminal underworld inhabited by deutshbag animals, just listen to this lesser-known alternate verse:

Jimmy’s got the whooping cough
And Timmy’s got the measles
That’s the way the story goes
Pop! goes the weasel.

Case regretfully closed.

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