Bookshelp header image for page World Wide Words logo

Wigg

Pronounced /wɪɡ/Help with pronunciation

On Good Friday 1664, Samuel Pepys recorded in his diary, “Home to the only Lenten supper I have had of wiggs and ale.” Though they were sometimes said to be like Good Friday buns, ancestors of hot-cross buns, wiggs seem to have been linked not only with the end of Lent but with other special occasions, too; Clement Miles noted in his book Christmas in Ritual and Tradition in 1912, “In Shropshire ‘wigs’ or caraway buns dipped in ale were eaten on Christmas Eve.” They were also recorded as being associated with St Andrew’s Day on 30 November, for some reason notably in Bedfordshire.

A Lincolnshire variation on an old children’s rhyme goes:

Tom, Tom, the baker’s son,
Stole a wig and away he run;
The wig was eat, and Tom was beat,
And Tom went roaring down the street.

In the nineteenth century, wiggs (or wigs or whigs; spellings have been very variable) were widely known and equally widely variable in their recipes. Caraway was one constituent mentioned in some parts of Britain (these were presumably the type recorded in The Tale of Ginger and Pickles by Beatrix Potter: “But a person cannot live on ‘seed wigs’ and sponge cake and butter buns”); in other places it was said they should be sweet and contain currants (though in northern England this was a spice wig, a plain wig being without them). In Lincolnshire, plums were considered to be a vital ingredient (though currants were meant, as in plum pudding), while in Hampshire honey was essential. On the other hand, the austere burghers of Bristol said a wigg was a local name for a plain halfpenny bun. They were nearest its origin, since a wigg was at first simply a fine wheaten loaf lacking these later elaborations.

Most recorders of this dialectal term said that wiggs should be long or oval, though in 1900 The Farringdons by Ellen Thorneycroft Fowler includes the line, “Elisabeth helped herself to one of the three-cornered cakes, called ‘wigs.’” Etymologically speaking they should be wedge-shaped, as the word is from old Germanic wigge, a relative of wegge, from which wedge is derived. The word is recorded from about 1375.

Share this page
Facebook Twitter StumbleUpon Google+ LinkedIn Email

Search World Wide Words

Support World Wide Words!

Donate via PayPal. Select your currency from the list and click Donate.


Buy from Amazon and get me a small commission at no cost to you. Select your preferred site and click Go!

OTHER WAYS TO HELP

Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 29 Mar. 2008

Advice on copyright

The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or alter their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least a part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech.

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
This page URL: http://www.worldwidewords.org/weirdwords/ww-wig1.htm
Last modified: 29 March 2008.