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Q From Jimmie Ellis in the USA: Is bridey such a limited regional term? I cannot find it in any dictionary I have consulted. I saw it on Victory Garden (a PBS gardening show), and I believe they were in Scotland. The thing, as it was explained, resembles a large pasty, being pastry with a meat filling which is then baked. The origin was, they said, unknown. Surely you have something on this?

A I know the word, but had to look it up to double-check the usual spelling, which is the slightly different bridie. It’s in Chambers Dictionary and the New Oxford Dictionary of English (NODE) but not in many American equivalents. The word is indeed Scots, but is nothing like so well known south of the border or abroad, which is why its appearance in dictionaries is patchy.

The Scots would probably take offence if I agreed with you that it was a Scottish pasty, since pasties are traditionally Cornish, but that’s essentially what it is: meat and vegetables placed on a round pastry base, which is turned over and folded down to enclose the contents, then baked. There are quite a number of types of these meat pies, whose fillings vary with the region. The bridie traditionally contains mainly beef and onions, while the Cornish pasty’s filling is based more on potato and swede (rutabaga in the US) with a little beef; the Sussex churdle contains liver, bacon and vegetables with a cheese topping. But the fillings are even more variable than the names.

The dish was originally a portable “piece” for a workman to take with him for his meal break, and it was made from whatever was available at the time, often with little or no meat in it. Nobody knows where the word bridie comes from, though NODE hazards a guess that it’s a corruption of “bride’s pie”. What that says about the standard of catering at old-time Scottish weddings I hardly like to consider.

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 12 Feb. 2000

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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.

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Last modified: 12 February 2000.