Is there a tavern in your town called ‘The Pig and Whistle’? It must be one of the most common pub names in the English-speaking world. But what does it mean?
The name is an example of folk etymology – the process by which a mistaken assumption about the meaning of an ‘old’ word causes it to be re-interpreted in the light of new analogies. I love finding examples of folk etymology, and today I want to share with you one of my favourites.
In older times, when utensils of all sorts were not mass-produced but individually crafted and therefore inherently more valuable, tavern patrons shared ale tankards. A series of holes in the side of the tankard were fitted with close-fitting pegs, and each drinker paid for, and drank down to, his allotted peg before handing it onto the next in line. As each man took the tankard, presumably he called out the ancient drinking salutation or pledge of ‘Wassail!’- a word which probably originated with the early Danish visitors to Britain, and can be loosely translated as ‘Your Health!’
So, over time, as one tankard per person became the norm, and folk had forgotten the literal meaning of the salutation – ‘peg and wassail’ evolved into ‘pig and whistle’! As an added bonus, probably from the same origin we get the phrases ‘to take someone down a peg or two’, and ‘pegging away’ at something.
Here is a nice refreshing, prepare-ahead, non-alcoholic beverage for you to share. It is from an edition of The Family Economist, described as ‘A Penny Monthly Magazine, devoted to the moral, physical, and domestic improvement of the industrious classes’, published in England in 1848.
P.S Alternative explanations for the name are given HERE. (Thanks to the anonymous commenter for the link!)
Soda Water and Ginger Beer Powders.
Carbonate of soda and tartaric acid, of each two ounces; fine loaf sugar rolled and sifted, 6 ounces; pure essence of lemon 25 or 30 drops. To be well mixed in a marble mortar,kept in a bottle closely corked, and in a very dry place. When required for use, two teaspoonfuls to less than a half pint of water, to be mixed in a glass that will hold twice that quantity, and drunk while in a state of effervescence. If half an ounce or one ounce (according as it may be liked more or less hot), of best ground ginger be mixed with the above quantity, it will be ‘ginger-beer powder.’
Quotation for the Day.
I fear the man who drinks water and so remembers this morning what the rest of us said last night.