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The term nursery rhyme is used for "traditional" poems for young children in Britain and many other countries, but usage only dates from the 19th century and in North America the older ‘Mother Goose Rhymes’ is still often used.
here have been several attempts, across the world, to revise nursery rhymes (along with fairy tales and popular songs). Even in the late 18th century we can sometimes see how rhymes like "Little Robin Redbreast" were cleaned up for a young audience.[22] In the late 19th century the major concern seems to have been violence and crime, which led leading children's publishers in the United States like Jacob Abbot and Samuel Goodrich to 'improve' mother goose rhymes.[23]
In the early and mid-20th centuries this was a form of bowdlerisation, concerned with some of the more violent elements of nursery rhymes and led to the formation of organisations like the British 'Society for Nursery Rhyme Reform'.[24] Psychoanalysts such as Bruno Bettelheim strongly criticized this revisionism, on the grounds that it weakened their usefulness to both children and adults as ways of symbolically resolving issues and it has been argued that revised versions may not perform the functions of catharsis for children, or allow them to imaginatively deal with violence and danger.[25]
In the late 20th century revisionism of nursery rhymes became associated with the idea of political correctness. Most attempts to reform nursery rhymes on this basis appear to be either very small scale, light-hearted updating, like Felix Dennis' When Jack Sued Jill – Nursery Rhymes for Modern Times (2006), or satires written as if from the point of view of political correctness in order to condemn reform.[26] The controversy over changing the language of "Baa Baa Black Sheep" in Britain from 1986, because, it was alleged in the popular press, it was seen as racially dubious, was apparently based only on a rewriting of the rhyme in one private nursery, as an exercise for the children.[27]

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