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A Dozen Fresh from the Oven

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Hey, Bakers and Lovers of Baked Goods!

Today we’re taking a dive for our second investigation of those handy, little turns of phrases that we know like the back of our hand (<--- there’s one right there!). Sayings like these are more specifically referred to as idioms or adages. Today’s featured saying is a Baker’s Dozen. What does it mean and why should a baker’s dozen be any different than anyone else’s dozen?

Well, before we get that far, let’s first just see why the number twelve gets its own special term in the first place—because that’s all a dozen is, right? ...a grouping of twelve. Well, the answer’s pretty short and simple. Dozen is a word that comes from the French ‘douzaine’, which is used to refer to a group of twelve things. And there you have it. I told you it’d be quick.

So, when we refer to a baker’s dozen we’re typically referring to a group of 13. Why not twelve? Well, buckle up—the answer to this question will take a little more time to land.

The term came about some three to four hundred years ago. Bakers of the 16 and 1700s would actually short their customers and sell them very light breads that used less dough. People were typically very poor and had to take such deceptive measures in order to get by themselves.

The laws of medieval England, however, sought to fix this scam. It was put forward that the price of a baker’s bread must be in direct relation to the price of the wheat that was used to make it. And bakers who were found to be ‘cheating’ their customers would be subject to strict punishments such as fines or even physical harm.

No baker wanted to be caught in violation of this new law and, since many didn’t even have a scale with which to weigh the dough, started adding an extra roll to the common request of a dozen. The bonus roll should make up for any that may have come up light. So fearful were the bakers of breaking the law that sometimes they’d even make 14 rolls at the request of a dozen—you couldn’t be too careful.

So enjoy any breads that you eat today and know that it probably wasn’t overpriced! Thank goodness for the bakers of the world. And, as always, thanks for reading!


- John

Posted in Adage Origin


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