Myth Trivia: Grubbling, Mozart, Cockle Shells and maids named Mary

Time for more trivia - This time its Mary, Mozart and the art of Grubbering


CHARLOTTE, N.C., May 27, 2015 – So many possibilities, so little space. It’s the bane of our trivial pursuits. Let’s get to it, time’s awastin’.

1 – What is the Truth about Contrary Mary?: Like so many nursery rhymes, the origin of the children’s poem, “Mary, Mary Quite Contrary,” has several possibilities. The only thing for sure is that the rhyme is about someone named Mary.

One version is that the poem refers to a religious allegory of Catholicism with the “bells” being the sanctus bells, the “cockle shells” representing the badges of the pilgrims to the shrine of St. James in Spain, while the “pretty maids” were nuns. Debate arise with this version because it is difficult to determine whether it seeks the reinstatement of Catholicism or is a request for Catholic persecution.

Myth Trivia: Forks, bullfighting and shaking hands

Two other theories involve Mary, Queen of Scots, which seems to indicate that one of these may indeed be the true source.

“How does your garden grow/” could refer to Mary’s reign in Scotland. “Silver bells” are the Catholic cathedral bells and “cockle shells” allude to Mary’s unfaithful husband. The “pretty maids all in a row” could easily be Mary’s ladies-in-waiting.

Walt Disney apparently thought Mary, Queen of Scots, was the source because in “The Truth About Mother Goose” he believed the “silver bells” were a reference to Mary’s elaborate gowns. In Disney’s world, the “cockles” represent the queen’s passion for exotic foods and, as in the first theory, the “pretty maids all in a row” were Mary’s attendants.

Another Mary was Mary I of England. The phrase “How does your garden grow?” was said to be a reference either to the queen’s inability to produce heirs or to the belief that England had become a Catholic branch of Spain and the Hapsburgs.

Mary, who was the daughter of Henry VIII’s first wife Catherine, attempted to convert England back to Catholicism after Henry split from Rome to create the Anglican Church. Thus “quite contrary” is said to be a reference to that effort. Some experts believe “pretty maids all in a row” has to do either with Mary’s multiple miscarriages or with her execution of Lady Jane Grey.

Take your pick, but just remember there’s something about Mary.

2 – What is “Grubbling?”: If you never heard of the word “grubbling” don’t worry, neither has anyone else. That’s because it is obsolete and no longer in use. Then again, just looking at it and saying it, suggests it may be time for a comeback.

This archaic little gem means “to feel or grope in the dark.” Be honest now, how many times in your life have you “grubbled” for something?

Lost your keys, rattled around in your pocketbook, looked for the light switch when you come into a dark room? Then you were “grubbling.”

How about when you are rummaging around in a closet or looking for some obscure item you clearly remember putting in your desk drawer?

Seems like a great word to undergo a renaissance of usage.

3 – Did Antonio Salieri Really Hate Mozart?: Thanks to the biofilm and stage play “Amadeus,” recent legend has it that Mozart’s jealous rival Antonio Salieri plotted to kill the great composer by taking advantage of his fondness for drink, his personal financial crisis and his obsession to please his father.

According to the movie, Salieri anonymously commissioned Mozart to write a requiem mass under the pressure of an impossible deadline. The challenge drove the already weakened maestro to his death by causing him to overwork himself under extreme physical and mental duress.

There is no question that Mozart and Salieri were rivals. Salieri’s jealousy over Mozart’s notoriety became a lifelong fixation he could not erase, though he also had the highest respect for his competitor’s talents.

Part of Salieri’s resentment came from Mozart’s efforts at producing Italian operas while residing in Vienna. Operas in his native tongue were Salieri’s specialty and, in his opinion, Mozart was venturing into the composer’s personal realm of expertise.

Other than that, Salieri was well regarded in Viennese society and the world of musical composition. Given his personal power and financial status, there was no need for Salieri to assassinate Mozart to eliminate a rival.

Myth Trivia: The risque business of sluts, short men and babes

All of Mozart’s principal biographers, as well as Salieri’s own students, defended him against the rumors of murder. In fact, one of Mozart’s students named Sussmayr completed Mozart’s Requiem following his death and later continued his studies under Salieri without hesitation.

Of interest is the fact that Mozart was buried in an unmarked mass grave; however, this was by personal choice rather than an elaborate conspiracy.

Only a few people attended Mozart’s memorial service. Among them was Antonio Salieri.

Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award-winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe.

Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (

Read more of What in the World and Bob Taylor at Communities Digital News

Follow Bob on Twitter @MrPeabod

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