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Camphorated oil

Sometimes, the songs I encounter in the course of Grouting-focused events strike me as being things that I would never have encountered in the US. This verse of "Little Peter Rabbit" is currently exhibit A for this train of thought.

Little Peter Rabbit had a cold upon his chest.
Little Peter Rabbit had a cold upon his chest.
Little Peter Rabbit had a cold upon his chest.
So he rubbed it with camphorated oil



( 21 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 11th, 2014 01:24 am (UTC)
I knew that as a child in the US but as "John Brown's baby" not "Little Peter Rabbit", camphorated oil and all. (I seem to recall my mom explainign to me what camphorated oil was. I think the song was in a book of american folk songs and silly songs which we had)

sung to the same tune as the Battle Hymn of the Republic - which is definitely a USAian song

(Wikipedia entry under John Brown's Body, which I also recall: "John Brown's body lies a moulderin' in the grave" en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Brown's_Body

Edited at 2014-03-11 01:25 am (UTC)
Mar. 11th, 2014 01:25 am (UTC)
I'm delighted (and astonished) to be wrong about this.

But would you ever say "have a cold upon one's chest" in any context outside this song?
Mar. 11th, 2014 01:30 am (UTC)
no I definitely wouldn't! I always thought the wording was because it was quite an old song , given the mention of camphorated oil

the wikipedia article has brought memories to mind of other variations of 'the battle hymn of the republic we used to sing... specifically the glee with which we'd sing
"mine eyes have seen the glory of the burning of the school,
We have tortured every teacher, we have broken every rule..."
Mar. 11th, 2014 01:39 am (UTC)
would anyone here much say "have a cold upon one's chest" anymore either for that matter?
Mar. 11th, 2014 10:41 am (UTC)
But I've never come across a British person saying that either.
Mar. 11th, 2014 12:41 pm (UTC)
Google ngram is giving me no hits for "cold upon her chest", "cold upon my chest", "cold upon your chest". Clearly, I was misreading the context of this. Thank you.
Mar. 11th, 2014 01:36 am (UTC)
(by which I mean, as I kid I always thought that... having been the sort of kid who considered such things! I seem to recall coming across the mention of camphor oil in the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder? My mom read those to us was bedtime stories, so that would match with her explaining how it was expected to work for a cold to me)
Mar. 11th, 2014 04:18 am (UTC)
I didn't know there was a song about Peter Rabbit, let alone one with camphorated oil...
Mar. 13th, 2014 02:21 am (UTC)
Same here, and I went to baby groups in the UK!
Mar. 11th, 2014 05:33 am (UTC)
I know this song from my childhood - my granny used to sing it to me over sixty years ago. It was certainly someone's baby, and it may well have been John Brown's. Certainly the BBC have the John Brown version here


The version I know was also variant in that it was in the present tense "has a cold upon his chest" and "so we rub it with" rather than "he rubbed".

It's a really catchy tune, and I knew it as this long before I had ever heard either "John Brown's Body" or "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." (My school assembly used to sing that, but to an entirely different and rather splendid tune.) And, again, I knew the school-yard gruesome, "He jumped from 20,000 feet, forgot to pull the cord" version before I heard either official songs.

Edited at 2014-03-11 05:38 am (UTC)
Mar. 12th, 2014 05:08 pm (UTC)
I like the 'John Brown's Baby' designation... I wonder who decided there needed to be a child-friendly thing to sing to the tune of John Brown's Body?

I see the BBC have the word-replacement game for John Brown's Baby. I'm more familiar with that game when sung to the filthiest possible version of Sir Roger of Kildare (scroll down to pg 53 transcription), in which the 'oh sir roger' refrain gets shorter and more interestingly inflected every time.
Mar. 12th, 2014 05:40 pm (UTC)
It could be music hall in origin. Most of my Granny's songs were. I still cringe at the memory of her singing 'The Little Boy that Santa Claus Forgot' and 'Oh, the Mistletoe Bough.' ("The bride she lay clothed in her living tooooomb.")
Mar. 11th, 2014 07:20 am (UTC)
Hurrah for camphorated oil!
Mar. 11th, 2014 08:17 am (UTC)
I think it's John Brown's baby that has a cold upon its chest, and Little Peter Rabbit has only a single verse; the fly upon his nose that gradually gets replaced by actions.

We don't rub chests with camphorated oil, we rub chests with Vicks. Which might in fact be camphorated oil? I don't know.
Mar. 11th, 2014 10:01 am (UTC)
Vicks is a mentholated oil-based ointment that does (I believe) contain camphor. So it could reasonably be described as a camphorated oil, I think.
Mar. 11th, 2014 12:42 pm (UTC)
I originally heard Little Peter Rabbit with only one verse. But we now have a freebie CD with it having something like six verses, including the camphorated oil one.
Mar. 12th, 2014 04:57 pm (UTC)
In my upbringing, Little Peter Rabbit had a cold upon his chest, so he rubbed it with Vicks Vapo-Rub! It scans properly as well...
Mar. 11th, 2014 01:01 pm (UTC)
I've heard that before. It wasn't little Peter rabbit though. Something something's baby? I don't remember.
Mar. 11th, 2014 10:31 pm (UTC)
John Brown's baby here as well.

I think there is a minor flaw in your googling. No, people don't say "cold upon zir chest" but they DO say "cold on zir chest" - I suspect "on" was replaced with "upon" to make it scan better. It's not common, but it's not the sort of thing you'd have to decode if it were said to you.
Mar. 13th, 2014 09:14 pm (UTC)
Yes! Although not with little Peter Rabbit.
John Brown's baby is only dimly familiar but enough people are attesting to it do that it must be what we sang too. Whoever it was did have a bold upon his chest. We definitely rubbed it in with camphorated oil.
Mar. 13th, 2014 09:58 pm (UTC)
And now I have the word "cam-fer-am-fer-am-fer-ated" ringing in my head.
( 21 comments — Leave a comment )