Wander with us? ER to Blade Runner … Jiggity Jig

Want some fun? Wander with us!
Here at ReadTheSpirit, we call columnist Rodney Curtis the Spiritual Wanderer. It’s the title of his first book that you can order in his section of ReadTheSpirit. The title describes the way he … well, he wanders. And, he invites us to wander, which is why so many fans love his writing. And, pssst! He’s got two new books coming out by the end of this year—so you might want to aquaint yourself right now with one of our most popular writers.
How does this wandering work?


Rodney’s newest column is a great example. It’s a simple story about how Rodney—who readers know is a survivor in an epic battle with cancer—was called by his Mom to take her to the ER. This was role-reversal in caregiving, something millions of us experience each year, right? But then, you’ll notice “Jiggity Jig,” the name of this particular column and … well, reading over the column as the Editor of ReadTheSpirit, that phrase—that phrase—it started bouncing around in my own memory. Where did it originate?


To market, to market, to buy a fat pig,
Home again, home again, jiggety-jig

We all know that originated with Mother Goose hundreds of years ago. Of course—assuming no impressionable children are reading this—we all can admit that Mother Goose never existed. She’s a mythic archetype for nursery rhymes and for beloved illustrators of children’s books to envision. Still, I was thinking of that phrase and wandering … and as I wandered through some references to children’s literature I discovered that, in fact, there was no actual pig in the earliest 1805 version of Mother Goose’s Rhymes for the Nursery. And that meant … there was no jiggity-jig. No need for a rhyme with pig, so no jig in 1805.

In fact, the 1805 version went like this:
To market, to market to buy a penny bun,
Home again, home again, market is done.

To that, I said: Rubbish! This must have been a bizarre mistake in that 207-year-old edition of the book! Then—alas—I kept trolling through literary history until I came to the original version. That’s John Florio’s, A Worlde of Wordes, or Most Copious, and exact Dictionarie in Italian and English, published in 1598. John Florio etched that nursery rhyme in moveable type, ink and velum without a pig or a jig. That meant: Somewhere in the middle 19th century enough parents had swapped the bun for a pig and the “done” for a “jiggity jig.” Certainly, by the 20th century, all children got the correct version with pig and jig.

But, I was wandering … and, in fact, as my memories rolled, I didn’t recall that particular phrase from Mother Goose. My own family home was piled high—literally piled floor to ceiling in some rooms—with books. But we weren’t big on Mother Goose. No ….


My late Aunt Helen, in one of her book-filled rooms on her big farm in Indiana, had the Cloverfield Farm books from the 1920s by Helen Fuller Orton. I never asked Aunt Helen about this collection of books on her shelves. Perhaps she collected them, as a girl, because the author and she shared a name. Today, I have no idea where those books may be. She probably sold them in the huge public sale she organized when she retired from the farm. Amazon was little help. A handful of Orton’s books are available in used editions from resellers—but not the particular classics I recalled. So, I wandered over to Project Gutenberg and—Bingo!

Project Gutenberg has Bobby of Cloverfield Farm, just sitting there online for free. I recognized the red cover immediately. But as I searched the text, Orton only gave us the rhyme in an off-kilter way: “jigglety, jigglety, shakety, shake.” It must have been another Cloverfield novel. And, yes, Gutenberg also has Prince and Rover of Cloverfield Farm. Yes, in that story, Orton recalls it the right way:

As they drove along, Bobby was silent for a long time.
At last he said, “I know what this is like, Mother.”
“What is it like?” asked Mother.
“To market, to market, to buy a fat pig. Home again, home again, jiggity jig.”

Clearly, Helen Fuller Orton had that phrase rattling around in her head throughout her career. But … I was still wandering … There was something else about that phrase … And then it hit me … Toys and Teddy Bears and a very strange toymaker!


It’s in Blade Runner! If you’re not familiar with the obsession that many fans have with the mysteries of the 1982 movie, based on a novel by Philip K. Dick, then suffice it to say: There are at least a half dozen distinct versions of the movie—each with advocates and each one the basis for different arguments about the final meaning of the film. But that wasn’t what finally “clicked” in my memory. No, I wasn’t thinking about the DaVinci Code-like mysteries of the movie and its many versions.

I was remembering J.F. Sebastian! He is the mysterious toymaker in Blade Runner, played by the melancholy character actor William Sanderson. A lonely genius, Sanderson built all kinds of artificial life forms—including toys. To warm his otherwise gloomy home just a bit, he programmed a toy soldier and a Teddy Bear to greet him at the front door each evening, after work, and recite: “Home again! Home again! Jiggety-jig! Goood evening, J.F.!”

And I realized … I had wandered over to cult movies—fan-favorite films—and I had come full circle. That was the subject of Rodney’s previous column: Let’s Talk About Films Again, Shall We?

We were home again … Come on! You know it! … Jiggety-jig!

Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online magazine covering religion and cultural diversity.

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