Who Cut the Cheese

Have you ever wondered why the cheese stands alone?  In the song titled The Farmer in the Dell, which is also a dance, people form a circle holding hands while gathering around the farmer who starts out in the middle and he begins this tragic pattern of selecting his wife, child, nurse, cat, rat, and finally the pitiful solitary neglected cheese is the only thing remaining at the end.  The people who are gathered around in the circle are cut out of this circle to join the farmer, but when the cheese is cut, nobody wants to be around anymore.  The phrase about the cheese standing alone has gone on to become an uncommon way to describe someone who is all alone.  Incidentally a dell is a small wooded valley and the word “derry” is an Old Irish Gaelic term which represents an oak grove or an area that is densely wooded with oak trees.

The rhyme was first recorded in Germany in 1826, as a courtship game, with a farmer choosing a wife, then selecting a child, maid, and serving man who leaves the maid after kissing her.

The farmer in the dell (2x)
Hi-ho, the derry-o…
The farmer in the dell

The farmer takes the wife (2×)
Hi-ho, the derry-o…
The farmer takes the wife

The wife takes the child (2×)
Hi-ho, the derry-o…
The wife takes the child

The child takes the nurse (2×)
Hi-ho, the derry-o…
The child takes the nurse

The nurse takes the cow (2×)
Hi-ho, the derry-o…
The nurse takes the cow

The cow takes the dog (2×)
Hi-ho, the derry-o…
The cow takes the dog

The dog takes the cat (2×)
Hi-ho, the derry-o…
The dog takes the cat

The cat takes the mouse (or rat) (2×)
Hi-ho, the derry-o…
The cat takes the mouse (or rat)

The mouse (or rat) takes the cheese (2×)
Hi-ho, the derry-o…
The mouse (or rat) takes the cheese

The cheese stands alone (2×)
Hi-ho, the derry-o…
The cheese stands alone

Written for Linda G. Hill’s ‘Life in progress’ JusJoJan January prompt of cheese.

17 thoughts on “Who Cut the Cheese

      1. Wisconsin produces 26% of America’s cheese, making it the #1 cheese-producing state. The term cheesehead is derived from the Dutch insult kaaskop, literally meaning ‘head cheese’. It was a schoolyard way of calling someone an idiot or dense. So much so, that Ralph Bruno decided in 1987 that he’d make a cheese wedge-shaped hat and wear it to a Brewers game. Wisconsin residents took up the mantle of ‘Cheesehead’, and this term became a mark of pride.

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  1. You know, when I first read the title of this post, a far more unsavory description of “cut the cheese” occurred to me. Good on you for taking the higher and more mature road and leaving the gas in the past. So to speak.

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  2. Nursery rhymes and children’s songs hold so much deeper meaning than most of us know. Thanks for this! – Zander ( a cheese who often stands alone.)

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