Posted by: Mark Nielsen | July 28, 2009

Little Piggies: Roast Beef or Porridge?

I need my Facebook and blog friends to help settle an argument with my wife Sue.

No pressure or anything. It’s just a longstanding stupid disagreement we have about the correct words to a nursery rhyme. Say it with me:

This little piggie went to market,

this little piggie stayed home,

this little piggie had _____________ ,

this little piggie had none,

and this little piggie cried “Wee wee wee” all the way home.

So what did you and your family fill in the blank with? My Chicago-to-the-core family said “roast beef”. In Sue’s experience, they said “porridge”. Maybe hers was a classic English version (she is a Daughter of the American Revolution, after all). Which would make my roast beef the Disneyfied American copy. Or else her Boston-based parents may have just been a little nuts…

At Wikipedia, it says roast beef is the most common “modern” variation, but says nothing about other variations. It also has some fun little notes about usages of the rhyme, including what seems like an awesomely wicked political cartoon in the Eighties by Jules Feiffer. I searched sincerely for a porridge reference, but found none so far.

I even put it out at Yahoogroups as a question yesterday. Most respondents said they had not heard porridge. The two that had heard porridge only responded “Yep”. That’s it. No background or proof offered. Just the same moronic “Yep”. Personally, I think it’s a conspiracy among about a dozen crazy Bostonians.

So whadya think? Anybody heard porridge, or other variations? Anyone wanna take this on as a research project? Seems like a fun and easy PhD dissertation topic, to me…

{We’ve literally circled back ’round to this goofy subject hundreds of times since we first started dating. Time to get it right. In other words: I KNOW Sue is wrong. I just need proof. So help me out people, will ya?!}



  1. According to The Oxford Book of Nursery Rhymes, the first appearance of this in in “The Famous Tommy Thumb’s Little Story-Book” (Wikipedia says this was published in 1728, but Oxford says 1760). I think this is the one quoted in Oxford; it has ‘roast beef.’

    A 1765 version from ‘Mother Goose’s Melody’ goes:

    It then had the words:

    This Pig went to Market/That Pig staid at Home; This Pig had roast Meat; That Pig had none; This Pig went to the Barn Door, And cry’d Week, Week, for more.”

    Other alternatives are ‘bread and butter’ and ‘This little pig said, Me a bit, me a bit, me a bit, before it all be gone.’

  2. Roast beef, definitely, roast beef! But, sometimes
    Sues get a little confused!

  3. Roast beef.

  4. HA! My husband has been driving me nuts for years saying PORRIDGE. His argument is, what kind of pig eats roast beef? I said, what kind of pig goes to market?

    He is from New Jersey, born in the early ’60s. So, obviously this porridge nonsense exists somewhere!

  5. My mom’s from Boston, and she always said “roast beef” when conducting this game as my siblings and I grew up. I have never heard porridge– probably started with a vegetarian family?

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