The butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker? Theoretically those jobs descriptions could refer to three women, but they don’t: The nursery rhyme is about three dudes bathing in a tub. It wasn’t always like this!
Albert Jack, author of the new book What Caesar Did For My Salad, says the “tub” in original “Rub-a-dub dub” limerick referred to a peep show that was a staple of traveling cultural fairs.
While it was possible that three men provided homosexual entertainment, he pointed out that the original 15th century rhyme was: “Rub-a-dub dub three maids in a tub, and who do you think were there? The butcher, the baker, the candlestick-maker, and all of them gone to the fair.” The rhyme was sanitised by the Victorians, he added.
I’m just surprised that by the 20th century in America, it hadn’t been changed to “Three asexual gender-neutral beings in separate bathing compartments.”