This week in The Dabbler, my cupboard contains a bran tub of bittybobs. To give you some idea of what I am talking about, here is the Oxford English Dictionary definition of bran-tub (with a hyphen) which, as you can see, leads directly to its definition of bran-pie (also with a hyphen), a term I confess is entirely new to me:
bran-tub n. = bran-pie n.; also fig.
1858 C. Parry in E. Parry Mem. (1870) vii. 173 It quite reminded me of the bran-tub itself as I unpacked each separate article.
1909 Westm. Gaz. 22 Apr. 8/2 Sideshows will contain the ever-popular phrenologist’s tent and bran-tub.
1963 Times Lit. Suppl. 26 Apr. 313/3 This is a mathematical bran-tub.
bran-pie n. a tub full of bran with small gifts hidden in it to be drawn out at random, as part of festivities at Christmas, etc.
1877 Cassell’s Family Mag. May 377/1 In the last division of the tent we had‥a bran-pie.‥ The bran-pie was an oblong washing-tub‥filled with bran, in which were hidden‥small articles.
1889 Peel City Guardian 28 Dec. 7/4 Sometimes what is termed a ‘bran pie’ is employed‥for storing the presents in.
1904 Daily Chron. 27 Feb. 3/2 The bran-pie‥is the receptacle of second-rate presents: gifts not quite showy enough to be displayed upon a Christmas tree.
1916 Daily Colonist (Victoria, Brit. Columbia) 4 July 4/4 All sorts of seasonable refreshments will be served and the blue ribbon girls will have an attraction in the form of a bran pie.
1931 V. Woolf Waves 236, I think more disinterestedly than I could when I was young and must dig furiously like a child rummaging in a bran-pie to discover my self.
I am disconcerted to learn, however, that neither bittybob (without a hyphen) nor bitty-bob (with a hyphen) is defined in the OED. Can such things be?, to quote Ambrose Bierce.
‘ … the ever-popular phrenologist’s tent and bran-tub …’
One can’t help but wonder what use the bran-tub is to the phrenologist.
R : The very question I intend to research thoroughly. Watch this space…
If I were the custodian of a bran-tub at a village fete I wouldn’t let phrenologists anywhere near it.
With they’re ability to interpret lumps and bumps they’d be able to fish out all the best prizes.
(The best water-pistol I ever owned came out of a bran-tub.)