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Commentary: 'Ring Around the Rosie' and the Plague

Smallpox vaccinations for half a million health and emergency workers are scheduled to begin later this month. There have been some concerns about the safety of the vaccine for the recipients and the people around them who might also become infected with the vaccine virus. For commentator Anne Burt, anxieties are closer to home. Recently, she caught her daughter singing a version of Ring Around the Rosie, and it seemed ominous. After all, it's a retelling of the story of the Bubonic plague. "All fall down" is the result -- death. But after some research she discovered that Ring Around the Rosie is really a Victorian game, and "all fall down" is a curtsey at the end. Anne Burt won the 2002 Editors' Prize in fiction from Meridian Literary Magazine.

Copyright 2003 NPR

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