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Chinny Chin Chin

Via the Double-Tongued Dictionary: Lexicographer Grant Barrett contemplates children’s nursery rhymes. Here, for example, is the truth about the Three Little Pigs:

I do recall most of ‘The Three Little Pigs’. There are three pigs, and a wolf who is trying to get inside their houses, and in response to his demands, the pigs say the memorable phrase, “Not by the hair of my chinny chin chin.”

This is partly a nonsense phrase, of course. That jutting feature of the face just below the mouth doesn’t need the “chinny chin”. So why do we add the extra words?

Well, in a version of the story that predates the version we usually tell today, the pigs were goats. Although pigs do have whiskers of a sort, goats have beards, which makes more sense.