Sticks and Stones (Nursery Rhyme)

"Sticks and Stones" is an English language children's rhyme. It persuades the child victim of name-calling to ignore the taunt, to refrain from physical retaliation, and to remain calm and good-natured. It is reported[1] to have appeared in The Christian Recorder of March 1862, a publication of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, where it is presented as an "old adage" in this form:

Sticks and stones will break my bones
But words will never harm me.

The phrase also appeared in 1872, where it is presented as advice in Tappy's Chicks: and Other Links Between Nature and Human Nature, by Mrs. George Cupples.[2] The version used in that work runs:

Sticks and stones may break my bones
But names will never hurt me.

This sentiment is reflected in/reflects the common law of civil assault, which holds that mere name-calling does not give rise to a cause of action, while putting someone in fear of physical violence does.

Other uses

For other uses, see Sticks and Stones.

The phrase was also adapted into the song "S&M" by Rihanna, which became a number-one hit on the US Billboard Hot 100. In the song, the singer chants "Sticks and stones may break my bones / But chains and whips excite me" referring to BDSM bondage. It was recurrently used in her autobiographical song "Half of Me" from her seventh album Unapologetic, where she looks retrospectively to her life. The phrase's popularity was surged by the recordings, so it was also used in David Guetta's top-ten single "Titanium", featuring vocals from singer Sia Furler. The debut album by Cher Lloyd was also entitled Sticks + Stones. The saying was also used in the poem with the theme of bullying, To This Day, by Shane Koyczan. However, Koyczan changes its meaning to the complete opposite by saying that words are more painful than a broken bone ("As if broken bones hurt more than the names we got called"). Tom Waits' "On the nickel" from the album "Heartattack and vine" opens with "stick and stones can break my bones, but I always will be true".


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