How I Got Outsmarted by a Bunch of Nursery Rhymes

It was a parenting discovery moment that truly took us by surprise. Singing random nursery rhymes to our twins the other night, we realized something that’s apparently been right under our noses all along: that “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” and “Baa Baa Black Sheep” have the same tune! What the—how come we never noticed that before? It was bad enough that one of the twins’ musical toys have been blaring “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” using a different arrangement and we never recognized it for months. Are we tone deaf or something? But my husband plays guitar and used to be in the band at church so he at least is not tone deaf, right?

We marveled over our “discovery” for a while and then went on playing with the kids. However, I was still turning it over in my mind, humming to myself and thinking over the other nursery rhymes with the same tune. “This is the way the lady rides” is the same tune as “Here we go around the mulberry bush.” “Yankee Doodle” is the same as “Jack and Jill.” “Ako ay may lobo” is sung the same way as the Kapampangan ditty “Atin cu pung singsing.” Amazing. They’re just recycled. I didn’t quite mind, it was just nice to realize it. I didn’t grow up knowing all these rhymes, see; I only started learning most of them when I became a mom. It was really interesting how—

Hold. On. One. Minute.

I wheeled around to my husband. “So is ABC!” I yelled.


“ABC has the same tune as Twinkle, twinkle little star,” I said.

“Noooo…” he said, but his “no” also had a doubtful sound to it. In denial pa.

“It does, it does,” I insisted.

And so we verified it through the same scientific way we verified “Twinkle” and “Baa baa black sheep” earlier. We each sang a song at the same time.

Me: A B C, D E F G…

Hubby: …how I wonder what you are.

Sneaky Nursery Rhymes

I was floored, to say the least. ABC! I’ve been singing that one since forever! And I was clueless about a lot of nursery rhymes but even I knew “Twinkle, twinkle little star”! How come I never realized that it’s the same tune! How could they be so sneaky? Who exactly they were I couldn’t tell, but I just felt like I’d been tricked and had to blame someone. Even now I don’t think that I’m completely over it.

The next day I did some Googling and was a bit relieved to find that at least I’m not the only one who’d been “tricked,” that some parents have been amazed by the same realization before and, well, like me, felt the need to write about it. One even went so far as the research the history behind it (go on and read it, I won’t spoil it for you). The article also led me to discover a beautiful Tagalog translation of “Twinkle, Twinkle” that I was unaware of.

“Ningning ng munting bituin, sana’y kaya kitang abutin.

Sa langit na kaytaas, nagsasabog ng liwanag

Ningning ng munting bituin, sana’y kaya kitang abutin.”

So all’s well that ends well, I guess. There’s my parenting realization of the week. That nursery rhymes can be sneaky little imps, but you can still learn something from them if you look (and listen) hard enough.