Sunday, June 27, 2004

Why not a song about opium?

Yesterday on Indiana Public Radio's Sound Medicine, I heard proof that reporters don't just screw up politics, they don't bother to fact-check anything anymore. On a segment about the connections between music and medicine, both the reporter and the "expert" repeated a completely de-bunked myth. The "expert," a doctor in Montana, teaches and writes about the connections between medicine and the humanities, with a particular forcus on music. He had some good examples, including two great little French Baroque pieces on gallstone surgery and childbirth by Marin Marais. But he joined in on the fallacy that "Ring around the Rosie" is about the Black Plague. It is not.

The clincher for me is that the first written version of the poem/song did not appear until 1881. Yet the myth says that this song has been around since either 1347 (the time of the first plague in London) or 1665 (when the second plague struck). So this song was important enough to be chanted by children for 534 years (or 216 years) without being written down? Where are references to it in the copious British literature from the 17th century onwards?

Let all reporters know, can help keep you from looking like an idiot.

No comments: