See caption
Illustration by William Wallace Denslow, from a 1901 Mother Goose collection
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Hickory, dickory, dock is an English nursery rhyme, probably derived from the counting numbers used by Westmoreland shepherds, in which “hevera”, “devera” and “dick” refer to eight, nine and ten respectively.[1] The best known version today is:

Hickory, dickory, dock.
The mouse ran up the clock.
The clock struck one,
The mouse ran down,
Hickory, dickory, dock.[1]

The earliest recorded version of the rhyme appears in Tommy Thumb’s Pretty Song Book, published in about 1744, with the opening line “Hickere, Dickere Dock”. Other early versions have “Dickery, Dickery Dock” and “Dimity, dimity, dock”.[1]

The astronomical clockClock showing the time and phases of the moon, the oldest parts of which date to 1484. at Exeter Cathedral has been suggested as an alternative source for the nursery rhyme.[2] The door below the clock has a round hole near its base, which legend has it was cut in the early 17th century, to allow entry for the bishop’s cat to deter vermin that were attracted to the animal fat used to lubricate the clock mechanism.[3]

Citations



Bibliography


Exeter Cathedral. The Cathedral Church of St Peter in Exeter. 2010.
Opie, Iona, and Peter Opie. Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes. 2nd ed., Oxford University Press, 1997.
Surman, Richard. Cathedral Cats. Ebook, HarperCollins, 2015.