The Traditional Children's Games of England Scotland
& Ireland In Dictionary Form - Volume 2

With Tunes(sheet music), Singing-rhymes(lyrics), Methods Of Playing with diagrams and illustrations.

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i74                                 SALLY WATER
The first thing to note from this analysis are the words Sally and Water. In twenty-three versions they are Sally Water or Waters, in seventeen versions it is Sally Walker, in six versions it is another name altogether, while in two versions it is Sallie only. The most constant name, therefore, points to Sally Water as the oldest version; and it is noticeable that in the Lincolnshire and Sheffield versions, where the name is not Sally Water, the word water is introduced later on in the line which directs the action of sprinkling water. Is it possible, then, that Sally Water may be a corruption from an earlier form where Sally is some other word, not the name of a girl, as it is usually supposed to be, and the word water is con≠nected, not with the name of the maiden, but with the action of sprinkling which she is called upon to perform ? If we could surmise that the early form was " Sallie, Sallie, water sprinkle in the pan," the accusative being placed before the verb, the problem would be solved in this manner; but there is no warrant for this poetical licence in popular verses, and I prefer to suggest that "water" got attached as a sur≠name by simple transposition, such as the Norfolk and Bedd-gelert versions allow as evidence. It follows from this that Walker and other names appear as degraded forms of the original, and do not enter into the question of origins, a point which may readily be conceded, considering that the general evidence of all these singing games is, that no special names are ever used, but that names change to suit the players. The next incident in the analysis is the ceremony of " sprinkling the water," which is constant in twenty-one versions, while the Wakefield " Springin' in the pan," the Settle 4< Tinkle in a can," Halliwell's " Sprinkle for a young man," and the eight versions in which this incident is wholly absent in any form, are evident corruptions. The tendency of the corruption is shown by this to be that the " sprinkling of water" came to be omitted from the verse, and therefore the other variantsó
Sitting by the water (Sheffield),
Water your can (Warwickshire),
Sitting in a sigh (Nairn),
Sitting on the sand (Fraserburgh and Beddgelert).

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