If you guessed yesterday’s What Is It? was a foot warmer, a hot water bottle, or a bed warmer you were right!
In days gone by the item was commonly called a bed pig and was used to warm beds on cold winter nights.
While googling around for information on my newly acquired bed pig I found an old broadside which tells a rather humorous story about a bed pig.
I found the broadside on a really cool website sponsored by the National Library of Scotland: The Word on the Street. The website has over 1800 Broadsides, which according to their home page, “lets you see for yourself what ‘the word on the street’ was in Scotland between 1650 and 1910.”
The title of the broadside which mentions the bed pig story-is Scotch. Read the short commentary given by the website below-then you can read the broadside:
As suggested by the word ‘Scotch’ in the title, this broadside is a light-hearted attack on the Scots language by an English writer who considers himself superior, simply because he speaks ‘proper’ English. After providing his audience with a list of Scots words, he tells of a humorous escapade that occurred when an English lady was touring in Scotland. On retiring to bed, Lady Delacour’s servant advised her that, to stay warm, she should sleep with a ‘pig’ in her bed. As ‘pig’ is a Scots word for ‘hot water bottle’, a series of delicate – and amusing – misunderstandings arise from this awkward situation.
Copies can always be had at 80 London Street.
They speak in riddles north beyond the Tweed,
The plain, pure English they can deftly read;
Yet when without the book they come to speak,
Their lingo is half English and half Greek.
Their jaws are CHAFTS; their hands when closed are NEIVES;
Their bread’s not cut in slices, but in SHEIVES;
Their armpits are their OXTERS; palms are LUIFS;
Their lads are CALLANTS, and their women KIMMERS;
Good lasses DENTY Queans, and bad ones LIMMERS;
They THOLE when they endure, SCART when they scratch;
And when they give a sample, it’s a SWATCH.
Scolding is FLYTIN’, and a long palaver
Is nothing but a BLETHER or a HAVER.
This room they call the BUT and that the BEN,
And what they do not know they DINNA KEN.
On keen cold days they say the wind BLAWS SNELL,
And when they wipe their nose they DICHT their BYKE.
And they have words that Johnson could not spell,
As im-phm, which means: anything you like,
While some, though purely English, and well known,
Have yet a Scottish meaning of their own:
To PRIG’S to plead, beat down a thing in cost;
To COFF’S to purchase, and a cough’s a HOST;
To CRACK is to converse; the LIFT’S the sky;
And BAIRNS are said to GREET when children cry.
When lost, folks never ask the way they want?
They SPEIR the GATE; and when they yawn they GAUNT.
Beetle with them’s a CLOCK; a flame’s a LOWE;
Their straw is STRAE; chaff, CAUFF; and hollow, HOWE.
A PICKLE means a few; MUCKLE is big;
And a piece of crockery ware is called a PIG.
Speaking of pigs? when Lady Delacour
Was on her celebrated Scottish tour,
One night she made her quarters at the “Crown”
The head inn of a well-known country town.
The chambermaid, on lighting her to bed,
Before withdrawing, curtsied low, and said,
“This nicht is cauld, my leddie, wad ye please
To take a pig i’ the bed to warm your taes?”
“A pig in bed to tease!” What’s that you say?
You are impertinent away, away!”
“Me impudent! no, mem- I mean nae harm,
But Just the greybeard pig to keep ye warm,”
“Insolent hussy, to confront me so!
This very instant shall your mistress know,
The bell? There’s none of course? go, send her here.”
“My mistress, mem, I dinna need to fear:
In sooth, it was hersel’ that hade me speir.
Nae insult mem; we thocht ye wad be gled,
On this cauld nicht, to hae a pig i’ the bed.”
“Stay, girl; your words are strangely out of place,
And yet I see no insult in your face.
Is it a custom in your country, then,
For ladies to have pigs in bed with them!”
“Oh, quite a custom wi’ the gentles, mem;
Wi’ gentle ladies, ay, and gentle men;
And, truth! if single, they would sairly miss
Their het pig on a cauldriff nicht like this.”
“I’ve seen strange countries, but this surely beats
Their rudest makeshift for a warming pan.
Suppose, my girl, I should adopt your plan,
You would not put the pig between the sheets!”
“Surely, my leddy, and nae itherwhere;
Please, mem, ye’ll find it dae the maist guid there.”
“Fie, Fie! ‘twould dirty them, and if I kept
In fear of that, you know I should not sleep.”
“Ye’ll sleep far better, mem. Take my advice;
The nicht blaws snell the sheets are cauld as ice;
I’ll fetch you up a fine warm cosy pig;
I’ll mak’ ye sae comfortable and trig,
Wi’ coortains, blankets, every kind o’ hap,
And warrant you to sleep as sound’s a tap.
As for the fylin’ o’ the sheets dear me,
The pig’s as clean outside as pig can be.
A weel-closed mooth’s enough for ither folk,
But if you like, I’ll put it in a poke.”
“But, Effie, that’s your name, I think you said-
Do you, yourself, now take a pig to bed!”
“Eh! na, mem, pigs are only for the great,
Wha lie on feather beds, and sit up late.
Feathers and pigs are no for puir riff-raff:
Me and my neighbour lassie lie on cauff.”
“What’s that? a calf! If I your sense can gather,
Yon and the other lassie sleep together,
Two in a bed, and with the calf between;
That, I suppose, my girl, is what you mean!”
“Na, na, my leddy,’od, ye’re jokin’ noo?
We sleep thegither, that is very true,
But nocht between us; wi’ our claes a’ aff,
Except our sarks, we lie upon the cauff.”
“Well, well, my girl! I am surprised to hear
That we of English habits live so near
Such barbarous customs. Effie, you may go;
As for the pig, I thank you, but no, no
Ha, ha! good-night, excuse me if I laugh?
I’d rather be without both pig and calf.”
On the return of Lady Delacour,
She wrote a book about her northern tour,
Wherein the facts are graphically told,
That Scottish gentlefolks, when nights arc cold,
Take into bed fat pigs to keep them warm;
While common folks, who share their beds in halves-
Denied the richer comforts of the farm-
Can only warm their sheets with lean cheap calves.
A few thoughts:
- The writer poking fun at the way the Scots talk makes me think of the times someone has asked me to repeat something because of my accent. Years ago when my co-workers and I filled out fishing licenses for folks we had to ask various questions-including how much the person weighed. One day my partner was filling out the license form for a gentleman. When she asked the weight question he said “yes.” Of course she said “weight.” Then he said “yes.” That little exchange went back and forth a few times until in frustration the man said “Hell yes I’m white can’t you see!”
- Did you recognize any of the words used by the Scots? I noticed ‘swatch’ still used to describe a sample of cloth in my area and blether which reminded me of a recent Appalachian Vocab Test with the word blatherskite.
- The Deer Hunter said when he spent the night with his Grandma Bonnie she would fill a gallon milk jug with hot water and send it to bed with him.
- I sleep with a heating pad-every single night-even in the summer! I turn it off just before I fall asleep. Snuggling down into a warm bed is something I look forward to each day-one of the good things in life for me. Back during the holidays when we spent a few days with Miss Cindy she brought me a hot water bottle after I went to bed because she knew I’d be missing my heating pad-is that sweet or what.