Dabbling In A Bran Tub

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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.

3 thoughts on “Dabbling In A Bran Tub

  1. ‘ … the ever-popular phrenologist’s tent and bran-tub …’

    One can’t help but wonder what use the bran-tub is to the phrenologist.

  2. 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.

    OSM B:53
    (The best water-pistol I ever owned came out of a bran-tub.)

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