Possible Hidden Meanings Behind the Jack Sprat Nursery Rhyme

Jack Sprat could eat no fat
His wife could eat no lean
And so betwixt the two of them
They licked the platter clean.

You probably first heard this nursery rhyme when you were very young. If it was read from a book, it most likely had an image of a skinny husband and a fat wife. The meaning behind it may be about not being wasteful, or that married couples are better off being complementary instead of agreeing on everything. I was always struck by how odd it was that a couple ate nothing but meat. The rhyme first appeared in print in 1639, although the name Jack Sprat was already being used as a reference to a small man. 

Could this rhyme have a political inspiration? Other nursery rhymes came about that way, but sometimes it's a matter of retrofitting. In any case, there are two theories about English royal family members that the rhyme may have been written about. One was contemporary with the first published version of the rhyme, while the other happened a few hundred years earlier. Read a bit of history that may give you some insight into Jack Sprat and his wife at Mental Floss.

(Image credit: James Edward Rogers)

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