Oh Dear! What Can the Matter Be?

Variations of this traditional rhyme dates back in 1770s in England. There is no particular known meaning of this rhyme.

“Oh Dear! What Can the Matter Be?” Lyrics

The traditional version in use sounds like this:

O dear, what can the matter be?
Dear, dear, what can the matter be?
O dear, what can the matter be?
Johnny’s so long at the fair.

He promised he’d buy me a fairing should please me,
And then for a kiss, oh! he vowed he would tease me,
He promised he’d bring me a bunch of blue ribbons,
To tie up my bonny brown hair.

“Oh Dear! What Can the Matter Be?” Original Version

The first recorded version according to Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes by Iona and Peter Opie sounds like this:

O what can the matter be
And what can the matter be
O what can the matter be
Johnny bydes lang at the fair

He’ll buy me a twopenny whistle
He’ll buy me a threepenny fair
He’ll buy me a Bunch o’ Blue Ribbons
To tye up my bonny Brown Hair

O saw ye him coming
And saw ye him coming
O saw ye him coming
Hame frae the Newcastle fair.