"wrapped in cotton wool" and "pin money"

Discuss word origins and meanings.

"wrapped in cotton wool" and "pin money"

Post by tony h » Thu Dec 06, 2012 10:11 pm

First: wrapped in cotton wool.
I had always assumed that this was just symbolic. But reading a biography by Grace Foakes called Four Meals for Fourpence there may be more to this. In this she states that babies would be wrapped up and sewn into layers of coton wool to see them throught the winter. As the weather warmed the, now black as the baby hadn't been washed during this period, the cotton wool was slowly picked away.

Second: pin money
Again in the same book she asserts that when change would be a fraction of a farthing (1/4 penny and by the title you could feed someone for a penny) you would be given change in pins. Pins then could be used to pay for other items.
Post actions:
Signature: tony

With the right context almost anything can sound appropriate.

Re: "wrapped in cotton wool" and "pin money"

Post by Ken Greenwald » Thu Dec 06, 2012 10:58 pm

aaa
Tony, I hope they didn't sew up the bottom or things could get really messy. (>:)
______________________

Ken – December 6, 2012
Post actions:

Re: "wrapped in cotton wool" and "pin money"

Post by Bobinwales » Fri Dec 07, 2012 12:16 am

Tony, both sound like folk etymology to me. I dread to think what a baby would smell like in those circumstances, and the Oxford says THIS about pin money.
Post actions:
Signature: All those years gone to waist!
Bob in Wales

Re: "wrapped in cotton wool" and "pin money"

Post by tony h » Fri Dec 07, 2012 6:44 pm

Bobinwales wrote:Tony, both sound like folk etymology to me. I dread to think what a baby would smell like in those circumstances, and the Oxford says THIS about pin money.
You may be right and Grace was just describing actual practice when she was growing up in Wapping in the 1900s.

The reading matter is that of my wife's who is reasearching life between 1850 and 1930. And, from her she quoted various materials as an indication of pong: people not washing for months and one particularly, but apparantly not surprising account, of a woman admitted to hospital who had not washed her nether regions for 3 1/2 years.

Certainly in the cases of the babies the wool was stated as being black at the start of spring.
Post actions:
Signature: tony

With the right context almost anything can sound appropriate.

Re: "wrapped in cotton wool" and "pin money"

Post by MTC » Sun Dec 09, 2012 4:50 pm

Tony h, the author may have been referring to the ancient practice of "swaddling" which is somewhat surprisingly still in vogue. According to one translation of the Bible Christ was wrapped in swaddling: "You shall find the infant wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger." (Luke, 2:7 or 2:12) There is a lengthy artice on swaddling here: ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swaddling)
Post actions:

Re: "wrapped in cotton wool" and "pin money"

Post by MTC » Sun Dec 09, 2012 5:13 pm

And as for "pin money," here is a somewhat different take on the meaning from another blog:

"The origin of the phrase "pin money" is one I found interesting. Pin money is money set aside, typically for the "housewife", to meet her needs and desires.

It seems that in the early 20th century, pins were quite valuable and were only sold 2 days a year, January 1 and 2. They commanded a high price. The money that a husband gave his wife to buy pins was a large enough sum to earn its own term: "pin money". In England, the wife often included a clause in the marriage contract giving her a lien on the rents that were collected from her husband's lands. It was called the "Pin-Money Charge" and was enforced by the courts as a valid contractual right."

(http://obsoleteword.blogspot.com/2006_0 ... chive.html)

Another site also indicates "pin money" may have been more than de minimis at one time , even though "a trivial amount" is how the phrase is presently understood:

"In 1912, the Henry G. Freeman Jr. Pin Money Fund was established. Freeman believed the President wasn't properly compensated but he didn't want to create something that would appear as a political gift. He created the Pin Money Fund to provide a small amount of discretionary income to the First Lady and specified that the money was to be used solely by the President's wife for whatever she wished. The current annual payment is about $12,000."

( http://www.sacklunch.net/personalnames/P/PinMoney.html)
Post actions:

Re: "wrapped in cotton wool" and "pin money"

Post by Erik_Kowal » Sun Dec 09, 2012 9:19 pm

MTC wrote:It seems that in the early 20th century, pins were quite valuable and were only sold 2 days a year, January 1 and 2.
The blog you extracted this from is fairly interesting, insofar as it contains a number of archaic, obsolete and dialect words. Some of the entries come with citations, some not. This one doesn't, and I am highly suspicious of the claim I quoted above. It sounds like folk etymology to me: I don't believe that in the early 20th century, after circa 100 years of the industrial economy, pins were so scarce or costly that they were only sold on two days in the dead of winter. I'd also like to see some evidence for the existence of the 'Pin-Money Charge' referred to in the same source.

The evidence is much more solid regarding the Henry G. Freeman Jr. Pin Money Fund, insofar as I found a variety of references to it in a number of places.

If I was trying to minimize the significance of a political donation (or a stipend that could be interpreted that way), I too would choose an innocuous-sounding name like 'Pin Money Fund' with which to decorate it.
Post actions:

Re: "wrapped in cotton wool" and "pin money"

Post by Ken Greenwald » Sun Dec 09, 2012 11:18 pm

aaa
MTC, By the 1830s (see here as well as other sources) automated machinery was knocking out pins like hotcakes. So the January 1st and 2nd of the “early 20th century” is hooey as Erik has suggested.

THE FACTS ON FILE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF WORD AND PHRASE ORIGINS

PIN MONEY: Metal pins, invented in about the 14th century and later manufactured by a monopoly under grants from the British Crown, were so costly and scarce at first that there was a law forbidding their sale except on the first two days of January in every year. About that time of year husbands customarily gave their wives pin money to buy all the pins they would need for the months ahead. When pins became less expensive [[1830s]], the expression pin money was still used for this annual stipend and came to mean a personal allowance given to a wife by her husband. . . .
______________________

Although I didn’t have the patience to read through the whole thing, the PIN-MONEY CHARGE does appear to have existed as a clause in a will to provide the wife ‘pocket money’ upon her husband’s death, at least according to the quote below:

MODERN LAND LAW (1899) by E. Janks (page 409)

. . . This , usually, but incorrectly, called the ‘jointure clause,’ is intended to provide a maintenance for the wife if she survive the husband. It is generally on a more liberal scale than the pin-money charge, which is intended only to furnish her pocket-money. . .
______________________

Ken – December 9, 2012
Post actions:

Re: "wrapped in cotton wool" and "pin money"

Post by MTC » Mon Dec 10, 2012 3:37 am

Ken and Erik, thanks for your research and thoughtful comments on "pin money." It's quite interesting how you employ the expression "folk etymology." According to one authority, "folk etymology" is "a change in the form of a word caused by erroneous popular beliefs about its derivation." Further, the term "is a technical one in philology and historical linguistics, referring to the change of form in the word itself, not to any actual explicit popular analysis."
(http://www.princeton.edu/~achaney/tmve/ ... ology.html) If I understand you correctly, however, this is not what you mean by "folk etymology" in your analysis of "pin money." Instead it appears you mean "false or fake etymology," which is an inaccurate record of a word or phrase's actual history--not a change in the form of the phrase (here, "pin money") to conform to mistaken popular beliefs about its origin. I'm sure we all agree it's a good idea to define terms at the outset of a discussion in the interests of clarity.
Post actions:

Re: "wrapped in cotton wool" and "pin money"

Post by Erik_Kowal » Mon Dec 10, 2012 4:23 am

The first thought that occurred to me on reading your posting, MTC, is that even specialists working in a given field sometimes use the same term to mean different things. It appears to me that your Princeton linguist is using an older, historical sense to define the term; but meanwhile, a newer connotation for the same term has developed in the same field.

For example, the well-respected etymologist Michael Quinion responds thus to a question from one of his correspondents (my emphasis shown in bold):
Q: From Eric J Michelsen in the USA, Frank Conway in Winnipeg, Canada, and several others: I’d like to know what the term rule of thumb meant. I remember reading it had something to do with being permitted to beat your wife with a rod no thicker than your thumb. Is this correct?
A: This sounds like the invention of somebody desperately trying to make sense of a traditional phrase — what linguists call folk etymology. And it’s quite certainly untrue. But there’s a lot more to it than just fevered imagination.
I would go so far as to say that the older connotation of folk etymology has now largely been superseded among linguists by the term eggcorn (if you search this site for that term you will encounter quite a few examples).

Generally speaking, of course, it would be desirable for everyone to settle on standardized terms and definitions -- it would be a lot less confusing. But unfortunately, in the arena of competing ideas and theoretical constructs, different experts are prone to appropriating and using the same term differently: our learned contributor Edwin Ashworth has bemoaned this phenomenon more than once in relation to the terminology used for describing grammar and syntax. And in the case of folk etymology, it seems that the field has generally moved on from using the term in the older sense that you referenced to the one that Michael Quinion mentioned.

That being said, there is an obvious mutual influence operating between the invention of plausible-sounding but incorrect origins for words and phrases and the tendency to modify the forms of words to match their supposed origins. The term folk etymology can cover both phenomena, but to lessen the scope for confusion I think it would be preferable (and more intuitive) to reserve that term for the process of inventing spurious origins, and to use eggcorn for the modification of words to match their imagined origins.
Post actions:
Signature: -- Looking up a word? Try OneLook's metadictionary (--> definitions) and reverse dictionary (--> terms based on your definitions)8-- Contribute favourite diary entries, quotations and more here8 -- Find new postings easily with Active Topics8-- Want to research a word? Get essential tips from experienced researcher Ken Greenwald

Re: "wrapped in cotton wool" and "pin money"

Post by Wizard of Oz » Mon Dec 10, 2012 8:20 am

.. MTC if you search on this site for folk etymology you will find that this term has been discussed at length by the regular contributors to WW .. there is no doubt in our minds to exactly what we mean when anybody speaks of an expression having a folk etymology explanation ..

WoZ who likes a good yarn
Post actions:
Signature: "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

Re: "wrapped in cotton wool" and "pin money"

Post by MTC » Mon Dec 10, 2012 11:45 am

Noted. I appreciate the lengths you took to accommodate a newcomer to the forum. Usage determines meaning, right? And by convention in this forum the term "folk etymology" is used in a certain way. I will be mindful of that convention when I see or use the term "folk etymology" here.

It's amusing and a little unsettling that language is studied through the instrument of language; object and instrument are the same and subject to the same processes. It reminds me of that famous Escher print of hands drawing hands. Or perhaps a Larson-like cartoon of potamologists rafting down the rapids...
Post actions:

Re: "wrapped in cotton wool" and "pin money"

Post by Erik_Kowal » Mon Dec 10, 2012 12:13 pm

MTC wrote:It's amusing and a little unsettling that language is studied through the instrument of language; object and instrument are the same and subject to the same processes.
Not to mention that we study our brains using our brains, electrical circuits using other circuits, etc... There are probably quite a few more-or-less-similar examples out there.
Post actions:

Re: "wrapped in cotton wool" and "pin money"

Post by MTC » Mon Dec 10, 2012 5:45 pm

Erik_Kowal wrote:
MTC wrote:It's amusing and a little unsettling that language is studied through the instrument of language; object and instrument are the same and subject to the same processes.
Not to mention that we study our brains using our brains, electrical circuits using other circuits, etc... There are probably quite a few more-or-less-similar examples out there.
Loosely speaking, yes, but sweeping the brain and electrical circuits together under the same umbrella with language misses the unique role of language as the medium through which we transmit meaning. The brain, though fundamental, acts not in isolation, but through the medium of language. We communicate thoughts generated in our brains through language. If we study the brain we do it through the instrument of language. Whatever technical means we employ , electrodes, microscopes, etc., the results must be interpreted and communicated through the medium of language. An electrical circuit is merely a human construct, hardware, albeit obviously a very important construction. Of course, a circuit is a medium to transmit meaning, but only through the medium of language. When we use language to study language, we are therefore doing something fundamentally different from using electrical circuits to "study" other electrical circuits. We are studying the very medium through which we communicate using the same medium. That cannot be said about either the brain or electrical circuitry. Language plays it's own unique, indispensable role.
Post actions:

Re: "wrapped in cotton wool" and "pin money"

Post by tony h » Mon Dec 10, 2012 9:54 pm

MTC wrote:Tony h, the author may have been referring to the ancient practice of "swaddling" which is somewhat surprisingly still in vogue. According to one translation of the Bible Christ was wrapped in swaddling: "You shall find the infant wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger." (Luke, 2:7 or 2:12) There is a lengthy artice on swaddling here: ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swaddling)
No it wasn't swaddling. i must find the book and quote the passage. Swaddling binds and restricts the infants. This was permanent attire which they were sewn into. No hope of getting out of it for a bed, a wash or a change.
Post actions:
Signature: tony

With the right context almost anything can sound appropriate.

Post Reply