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Mike Sutton
Mike Sutton
Dr Mike Sutton is the author of 'Nullius in Verba: Darwin's greatest secret'.
Posted in Science / Social Sciences / Sociology

Sutton's Mythbusting Protest. Wikipedia Myth Number 28. The Humpty Dumpty Myth

Nov. 29, 2013 2:45 am

Myth as currently mongered on Wikipeda (28th November 2013) is that

'The first appearance of an actual literary character named Humpty Dumpty is in the children’s nursery rhyme about an egg falling off a wall.'

Fact : The Humpty Dumpty Egg Myth

Nowhere does Wikipedia explain that Humpty Dumpty, as a character, appeared first in a poem that pre-dates by 96 years the earliest egg character of 1797.

The fact is that the first literary appearance of Humpty Dumpty as a character’s name is not as an egg, as Wikipedia would have it, in fact he appears as one of several ridiculous human characters in an anonymously penned ribald poem from 1701 about the goings on at Tunbridge Wells in England - Anonymous (1701) A rod for Tunbridge beaus, bundl'd up at the request of the Tunbridge Ladies. To Jerk Fools into more Wit and Clowns onto more Manners. A Burlesque Poem:

Beau Humpty-dumpty next appears,

A merry Lump well grown in Years,

With Back and Breast like Punchanello,

But for his parts has not his fellow;

This is a Crumpling of some Title,

A Barronet, and thing of Mettle;

But only does himself degrade,

When Honour's Tax is to be paid,

In actual currently discoverable fact, the second-earliest otherwise detected publication of the name, or phrase 'Humpty Dumpty' is in a dictionary published in 1785.

Fully 84 years after the name first appeared in print in the 1701 poem, the name appears in the first to be second published replication of it by way of a dictionary. See: Hoper, S. (1785) A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue. London. S. Hooper.

‘Humptv dumpty, a little humpty dumpty man or woman, a short clumsy person of either sex, also ale boiled with brandy.’

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Punchinello (AKA Punchanello) is inspirational 1701 source of Humpty Dumpty and also for Mr Punch

In the absence of dis-confirming evidence, therefore, it seems that the name Humpty Dumpty in the 1701 poem, referring to a character who was rounded in build, front and back - like Punchinello the clown - (later to morph into Mr Punch), influenced the later use of the term to mean a short and stout person. The reason a Humpty Dumpty character was later depicted as an egg in a nursery rhyme is simply because Punchinello - the cultural influence for the phrase 'Humpty Dumpty' - was shaped like one: 'With Back and Breast like Punchanello.'

Punchanello is both "humpy" (back) and "dumpy" (belly) - hence he is a "humpy-dumpy" person.

Fact: Punchanello {AKA Punchinello} is the influential cultural influence for Humpty Dumpty in a 1701 poem - and has nought to do with eggs. Later an egg-character was used to simply represent a humpy dumpy Punchinello-physical-type.

This is all most interesting, since there is a long-standing but un-evidenced entrenched myth that Humpty Dumpty was the name of a royalist forces cannon in the English Civil War. In fact, Samuel Pepys describes seeing just such a one called Punchinello due to its shortness and bigness: here:. Only in the written historical account of Pepys it was a Parliamentary forces weapon. Fascinating stuff!. It was Pepys' friend Sir Anthony Deane (1638 -1721) who invented the Punchinello cannon. This cannon seems to have become scrambled-up into an etymological "mess-o-eggs" so that it is now told (with zero evidence) that there was a cannon called Humpty Dumpty that had the wall shot out from under it at the Battle of Colchester (neatly debunked here). Naturally, the story-telling goes on that the Kings (royalists) men could not set the cannon back up on the wall. Such myths (as is always the case) are started, and then relied upon, to fill in the unwanted gaps in our history - gaps that occur when knowledge is forgotten.


The mystery of the origin of Humpty Dumpty is finally and uniquely cracked, here on Best Thinking on 29th November 2013. And it is solved with no thanks to either the arrogant and ignorant replicating amateurs running Wikipedia or the army of etymological experts who have spent years trying the crack the origin of Humpty Dumpty.

To crack the myth of Humpty Dumpty all I needed to do was find the hidden book in the library. And I did so with the ID detection method that exploits Google's Library Project.

You can now expect replicating Wikipedians to steal this information soon and present it as their own discovery on the Wikipedia page on Humpty Dumpty.

I expect the nursery rhyme has been deployed to mock many great men who fell. Here is just one such example from 1831, which blends humpty dumpty with its origin of humpy dumpy


Humpty dumpty sat on a wall

Humpty dumpty had a great fall

All the king's horses and all the king's men,

Could’nt set humpy dumpy up again

From Humpty Dumpty's conversation on semantics with Alice in Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass With Alice:

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less."

"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master—that's all."

That's wonderful irony.

How to cite this unique discovery:

Mike Sutton's Mythbusting Protest. Wikipedia Myth Number 28. The Humpty Dumpty Myth. Best Thinking 29th November 2013.

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