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Did the Old Man in "It's Raining, It's Pouring" Die from Sleep Apnea?

i really enjoyed this article speculating as to the fate of the old man in the famous nursery rhyme (emphasis my own):


Vancouver has been experiencing some typical rainy weather the last few days which -- in our home at least -- means quite a few renditions of the classic nursery rhyme:

It's raining; it's pouring.
The old man is snoring.
He went to bed and bumped his head.
And he couldn't get up in the morning.

And, as often happens when someone starts singing that rhyme, I wonder: What does that last line mean exactly?

Why couldn't the old man get up in the morning? Did he die? Fall into a coma? Or was he just too lazy to get up?

To my surprise, after a fair bit of time spent searching online -- far too much time, really -- I couldn't find a clear answer.

There were lots of sites where people asked the same question, with dozens of people weighing in with their own opinion.

But no definitive evidence of what the actual intention of the original song was -- at least in part, I imagine, because the exact origins of the song are unclear.

One of the few hints I did find was in the Wikipedia entry on the song, which actually renders the last lyric as: "And he wouldn't get up in the morning." Which, hopefully for the old man, suggests that he just didn't want to get up, as opposed to not being able to.

And while I didn't find an answer to my question, I did -- in my search -- stumble across a pretty hilarious 2003 study from the Canadian Medical Association Journal that complained that "several popular nursery rhymes portray head injuries as inevitable events that do not require medical follow-up."

The section of the tongue-in-cheek paper on the old man in "It's raining, it's pouring" is particularly funny -- and specifically addresses the confusion around exactly what happened:

There are two versions [of the rhyme] The first version is presented above, but the second one changes the sequence of events so that the old man "bumped his head" then "went to bed."

Obviously, establishing the exact sequence of events is crucial to the creation of a differential diagnosis.

If the elderly gentleman bumped his head after retiring for the evening, one is forced to entertain potential foul play, seizure activity or even a postcoital MI (there is no evidence to confirm the commonly held belief that he was alone).

Also, it should be noted that he was "snoring." Could his death have been precipitated by severe obstructive sleep apnea?

If he actually bumped his head before going to sleep, the list of potential mechanisms is endless, and a good forensic investigation is required to determine the cause of death.

The notoriously poor documentation of factors precipitating head injury in nursery rhymes makes it impossible to determine what really happened in this case as well as others.

The CMAJ study also dissects the head injuries in five other nursery rhymes, including Jack and Jill, Humpty Dumpty, Hush-a-bye-baby and 10 Little Monkeys (you know, the ones who jumped on the bed and bumped their heads).

What about you? What do you think happened to the old man in the rhyme?

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This Old Man was, and and do mean was, a remarkable Human Being. He was quite famous. The Old Man and the Sea, yes this was the same old man ! After spending days fighting a huge Black Marlin, Depriving himself of hours of sleep he needed. Only to find that Sharks had they're way with his posible World Record Fish. Imagine the heartbreak? The knick nac paddy wac stuff was always very hard on him. The sadness he must of felt when Neil Young asked him to take a look at his wife, was she a lot like his? I don't think so! Only a few years earlier the Beatles made sport of him calling him a Mean Old Man, over and over again! He Grandfather was compared to a River, for Gods sake! Steven Foster was very cruel at times. A few years ago everyone was reminded that this was "No Country for Old Men" !! They taunt him even in his Grave! I think bumping his head was the least of his problems. Just the fact that he was snoring is enough to say that Sleep Apnea was his ancor that dragged him down to the bottom of that dark lonely Sea. Peace be with you OLD MAN.
OH , BOY!!!
I surmised the nursery rhyme is describing this…
It’s raining and the Old man shuffled along and slipped. He hit his head resulting in a severe Occipital concussion. The old man in shock went to bed. The injury continued to worsen as blood broke through the damaged area. A clot formed and the brain continued to swell. The pressure began to affect the breathing center of the brain.
The snoring described could have been a result of the bodies lowered blood pressure as a result of the sub arachnoid bleed. As the body’s blood pressure lowered, and brain pressure increased, the barrel receptors kicked in flooding fluids into the circulatory system to increase blood pressure overloading the lungs and surrounding tissues. The death rattle is mistaken for snoring, which may have characteristics of sleep apnea/ snoring. Now in a coma the Old man doesn’t get up in the morning. He dies due to his injury.
Just my opinion.
...or just maybe
Now the Brothers Grimm may have a different take...
The Old man stumbled home in the rain after being in town viewing a fine lady upon a white house and drank his weight in ale. He arrives home and it continues to rain. After eating cakes, potatoes and lamb he falls asleep. His wife awakens him, his snoring is keeping the children awake and to tell him the roof is leaking. He is agitated and slaps the kind old lady growls at the startled children. He goes to the bed. There in front of the bed is a puddle cause from the roof leak. He slips and hits his head on the bed board and is out cold. The families seeing their chance grab pillows and hold them over the old man’s face.
In the morning the Kindly Old Woman recants to the local constable...
It was raining, pouring actually and my dear husband was snoring sitting in his chair near the fire. I awakened him and sent him to bed. He slipped on a wet spot fell and bumped his head, and simply didn’t get up this morning.
I believe that you are right about the ale. I also think that he was having an affair with the woman that lives in the shoe. After getting home, where he passed out in the doorway, his wife found lipstick on his collar. Snoring on the living room floor is the last memory his family has of him.
I really thought this thread would take off and be number one.

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