Friday, May 27, 2005

What Came First, the Bun or the Bun?

During our little jaunt up in the wilds of Northern California, while we were talking about food and hair, my curious husband asked me, "What do you think came first, the bun or the bun?"

"Like the hair and the bread?"


"The bun," I replied, making it clear that I meant the bread. It seemed so obvious to me.

"Oh, really," he snided, giving me the sly look of someone who thinks something much trickier than I had imagined could have gone down. Like maybe the hairstyle was first (people always had hair) and they named the bread bun after the hair bun.

I quickly reminded him that left handed people seem to reverse the logic in almost any analysis. Plus, since necessity is the mother of invention, which I learned as a fact in the seventh grade (by wrote, not by experience), I assume it must have always been true. And bread was necessary long before Puritanical coiffures.

I imagine it wasn't until one day when some finicky man during the Middle Ages looked into his wooden bowl and decided he couldn't take another gagging bite of his wife's offerings. So he yelled at her over by the fire while she stirred the meal under the roof of their thatched cottage,

"Hey, keep your dirty hair out of the soup."

And being that she did not like beatings, she put it up. And eventually someone must have said,

"What the hell is that on your head, Catherine? A bun?"


Dan said...

You guys need Google on the road. No mention of the bread here, but my bet's with Lefty.

bun - 1371, origin obscure, perhaps from O.Fr. bugnete "a fritter," orig. "boil, swelling," dim. of bugne "swelling from a blow, bump on the head," from Gaul. *bunia (cf. Gael. bonnach). Of hair coiled at the back of the head, first attested 1894. The first record of buns in the sense of "male buttocks" is from 1960s; but the singular form meant "tail of a hare" (c.1538) in Scot. and northern England dialect and was transferred to human beings (and conveniently rhymed with nun in ribald ballads). This may be an entirely different word.

Dan said...

Or maybe they aren't related at all?

Anonymous said...

Dan, it says a "fritter" right up front.

I think the hairstyle came first, but the term for it as "bun" was based on the bread roll.

Dan said...

Okay, I'm convinced.

My money now is that Don's theory is close to the mark, although cavemen and women were probably doing it to keep their hair out of the newly tamed fire. Don's "And eventually someone must have said...” was in the 1890s.

The question now is, what was it called for the 20,000 years before?

Don Cummings said...

Bun, Bun, Bun, Bun, BUUUUUUN.

Anonymous said...

When it comes to buns, it always goes back to the Greeks.

...around 500-300 B.C., women began to wear their hair in what was termed "the Greek knot," which was basically a bun at the bottom of the neck...

My guess is that the people were wearing buns forever, but the name was based on the bread bun.

The other question is why don't people where their hair in the shape of any other baked goods?

Dan said...

You've never sunk your teeth into a Ham on Afro?

Todd HellsKitchen said...

What about Buns?