mnemonic verse or song used to help children learn an alphabet; such devices appear in almost every alphabetic language. Some of the early English favourites are about 300 years old and have served as models for countless variations. One is a cumulative rhyme to which there is a printed reference as early as 1671. It often appeared in 18th-century chapbooks under the imposing name The Tragical Death of A, Apple Pye Who was Cut in Pieces and Eat by Twenty-Five Gentlemen with whom All Little People Ought to be Very well acquainted. It begins:A was an apple-pie;B bit it,C cut it,D dealt it, etc.
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