TikToker Mackenzie Barmen Explains The Dark Meaning Of Nursery Rhymes (And We're Shook)

Photo: Mackenzie Barmen on YouTube
Mackenzie Barmen TikTok nursery rhymes

We all have countless childhood songs ingrained in our minds, but have you ever wondered where these nursery rhymes began and what exactly they mean?

The answer is probably no since most of us have been mindlessly singing along to classics like "Here We Go 'Round The Mulberry Bush" and "Enny Meeny Miny Mo" (sometimes spelled Eenie Meenie Miney Mo") since before we could talk properly.

And let’s face it, these childhood tales typically aren’t a huge part of our adult lives unless we’re parents now trying to get our own little ones to doze off.

So it’s easy to ignore the sometimes true, often dark meanings and origin stories of our favorite nursery rhymes.

For example, did you know "Three Blind Mice" is believed to be about three Protestant loyalists who were executed by Queen Mary I of England? Try singing that to your kids while they sleep now!

And now the fascinating, albeit somewhat terrifying, true meanings of popular nursery rhymes are being exposed on TikTok thanks to a woman named Mackenzie Barmen.

In her dramatic-yet-hilarious videos, a somber Barmen reveals the hidden meanings behind these childhood classics to her blissfully ignorant self — going viral on the app in the process. Her videos have become so beloved she now boasts 1.7 million followers on TikTok, along with another 23.4K on Instagram, and is quickly growing her fan base on Twitter and her YouTube channel as well.

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We spoke with New York City-based actor-turned-TikToker Barmen about what led her to these shocking revelations and how she’s managed to make ruining our childhood innocence into a comedic art form.

Photo: Mackenzie Barmen

Her TikToks started kind of as an accident.

Barmen had stumbled across the true meaning behind ‘This Little Piggy Went To Market" and was shocked to discover that the little piggy in question was unfortunately not going to the market to do some casual shopping.

"Why did the piggy ... go to the market?" realist Barmen pointedly asks her still naive self.

Without ever saying it explicitly, the answer clicks. The piggy went to the market to be sold.

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Barmen says the truth left her “totally mind-blown,” in a way one can only be when something beloved from their childhood has now been permanently ruined.

She wondered if others had already figured out the dark meaning behind this childhood classic.

“So I just went on TikTok and randomly made this video about finding out the real meaning behind a song that I had personally sung hundreds of times growing up and never registered,” Barmen tells us, “After the TikTok went a bit viral, I decided to continue making them to see where it went.”

She has made over 30 similar videos exposing some surprising meanings behind everything from "Humpty Dumpty" to "Do You Know The Muffin Man?"

Spoiler alert: Humpty Dumpty is believed to be about the brutal death of King Richard III and the Muffin Man may have been England’s first documented serial killer.

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Barmen’s videos rack up millions of views and a devoted legion of followers who eagerly await the next installment of their favorite childhood nursery rhymes being exposed.

While the high number of views came as a surprise to Barmen, it's not hard to see why her videos resonate, causing people to respond to her videos so powerfully.

Barmen says learning the true stories behind these songs appealed to her own curiosity in the same way that doing so has her multitude of fans so invested.

“As I researched I found darker and darker meanings and my weird, dark humor just totally gravitated to it," Barmen tells is. "And I thought, well, I haven't really seen anyone do this, so let me just keep going. I'm truly having a blast doing it.”

Her most popular video, with 15.3 million views and counting, dives into another classic, "It’s Raining, It’s Pouring."

Barmen stares dramatically off-camera with a tear rolling down her cheek as she realizes the old man who bumped his head and couldn’t get up in the morning is, in fact, dead.

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The comments on her videos are filled with viewers in hysterics — hopefully, in a good way — and parents wondering, “What have I been gleefully singing to my kids?”

Barmen believes it’s up to individuals to decide if they want to stop singing these rhymes for future generations.

“I think that it's always interesting to do a bit of research into what you're singing to your kids, sure, but I'm definitely not trying to cancel nursery rhymes,” she tells us.

She uses the example of "Eeny Meeny Miny Mo."

Barmen herself had been unaware that the original version of this rhyme featured racial slurs and was often used to discriminate against Black people. Barmen says she thought it was important to educate people on its origins so they would refrain from using it in an offensive way.

Many people thanked her in her comments section, saying they had grown up hearing the racist version.

But she says that, for the most part, these songs have become so detached from their original meanings that as long they are not sung with the intent of hurting someone, there’s no need to cut out most of these nursery rhymes entirely.

“I used to sing these songs growing up all of the time and never ever registered anything negative about them, so why not keep singing them if you're not really digging into it?” Barmen tells us, clarifying that her videos are just for fun.

“I'm an actor, and a weird-funny person, and I wanted to bring humor to something that I haven't really seen done yet.”

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Alice Kelly is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York. Catch her covering all things social justice, news, and entertainment.