Reverse Engineering a Nursery Rhyme | Silly Sally

Matthew Suchan
2 min readMar 30, 2022

For someone obsessed with rap music and rhyming, reading to my child is very intense. “Silly Sally Went to Town” is an exceptional read though. At one point in the book Silly Sally meets a sheep, “a silly sheep, they fell asleep.” Then the question is posed, “How did Sally get to town, sleeping backwards upside-down?” Well, let’s break down the next few lines and we’ll see how the first lines in the book eventually force the direction of the book.

“Silly Sally went to town, walking backwards upside-down.”

Once Silly Sally falls asleep though, she needs someone to wake her, but who? Well, the book seems to think since Sally is upside-down, she needs someone right-side up. But what should this right-side up person be named? Who is he?… Time to break down the lyrics.

“Now how did Sally get to town, sleeping backwards upside-down?”

So first, we’ll see how the rhyme is laid out by syllables, and if there are any rhyme patterns.

  • First Phrase: 8 syll, get-to-town (3 syll illusion rhyme)
  • Second Phrase: 7 syll, up-side-down (3 syll illusion rhyme)

So now we need to write the next two phrases to get Sally to stop being so lazy and sleeping on her way to town.

Since Sally is upside-down, we need someone right-side up.

up, pup, dup, lup, cup, mup, shup, tup, rup. Really? Only two single-syllable words rhyme with up (pup and cup). Ok, what 3 syllable phrase ends with either pup or cup?

right-side up | __-__-pup | __-__-cup

Buttercup! but-ter-cup

So there it is, this person needs to be named Buttercup, and he needs to be right-side up. And now what are the actual lines?

“Along came Neddy Buttercup, walk forwards right-side up.

Well this was a fun, quick, write-up to make. Most children’s books are basic end rhymes, so I’m happy when I come across some that aren’t.