This rhyme seems to have gone thru multiple iterations and combinations. It may have started out referring to a cobbler's (shoemaker's) bench, then gone to the tailor shop, and by the time it ended up in America, the monkey was chasing the weasel around a mulberry bush.

One source says that a weasel was a tailor's iron, which the workers would often 'pop' - or pawn - for money when times were hard and buy back when they got paid.


From another source comes this:

The Nursery Rhyme, 'Pop goes the weasel' sounds quite incomprehensible in this day and age! The origins of the rhyme are believed to date back to the 1700's. We have listed two versions of the rhyme on this page. The first rhyme is the better-known version - some translation is in order!

Pop and Weasel?
These words are derived from Cockney Rhyming slang, which originated in London. Cockneys were a close community and had a suspicion of strangers and a dislike of the Police (they still do!) Cockneys developed a language of their own based roughly on a rhyming slang - it was difficult for strangers to understand as invariably the second noun would always be dropped. Apples and Pears ( meaning stairs) would be abbreviated to just 'apples', for instance, "watch your step on the apples". To "Pop" is the slang word for "Pawn". Weasel is derived from "weasel and stoat" meaning coat. It was traditional for even poor people to own a suit, which they wore as their 'Sunday Best'. When times were hard they would pawn their suit, or coat, on a Monday and claim it back before Sunday. Hence the term " Pop goes the Weasel"

In and out the Eagle?
The words to the Rhyme are "Up and down the City road, in and out the Eagle -
That's the way the money goes - Pop! goes the weasel". The Eagle refers to 'The Eagle Tavern,' a pub which is located on the corner of City Road and Shepherdess Walk in Hackney, North London. The Eagle was an old pub which was re-built as a music hall in 1825. Charles Dickens (1812-1870) was known to frequent the Music Hall. It was purchased by the Salvation Army in 1883 ( they were totally opposed to drinking and Music Halls). The hall was later demolished and was rebuilt as a public house in 1901.

Alternative Lyrics
"A penny for a spool of thread, a penny for a needle" - this version has led to a 'weasel' being interpreted as a shuttle or bobbin, as used by silk weavers, being pawned in a similar way as the suits or jackets owned by the Cockneys.

Pop goes the Weasel - version 1
Half a pound of tuppenny rice,
Half a pound of treacle.
That's the way the money goes,
Pop! goes the weasel.
Up and down the City road,
In and out the Eagle,
That's the way the money goes,
Pop! goes the weasel.

Pop goes the Weasel - version 2
A penny for a spool of thread,
A penny for a needle.
That's the way the money goes,
Pop! goes the weasel.