Piccadilly is Such a Cute British Word. (Question: Does it actually mean something?) (Answer: Yes.)

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“High” collars, innit?

 

Piccadilly Circus. We’ve all heard of it — the London (much smaller) version of Times Square. But where does the word “piccadilly” come from?

When I was an English teacher in Rome, it was all about eliciting the answer from the student. So I’ll try to elicit the answer from you.

Is it:

  1. A stiff collar
  2. A small armadillo that “pecks”, called a peccadillo
  3. Someone who “picks” their nose
  4. A sort of cake or turnover
  5. A “peaked” hill (geography term)

 

Ok, here’s ANOTHER hint:

piccadill

 

Still think (or hope) it’s someone who picks their nose? OK, final hint:

picc with word in it

 

Yes, it’s one of those ruffled collars that were so impractical as to be indicative of class. Wearing one meant that you didn’t work with your hands (imagine trying to load up a ship with one of those things on! Or just pick up a box! Or even just have soup!). It also meant that you had servants to do all sorts of things including washing and starching these frilly chokers. Maintaining them was a lot of work; hundreds (hundreds!) of pins were needed for the ruff’s elaborate pattern. It’s fair to say then that wearing one also indicated that you “generally had more money than sense.”

There was a merchant named Robert Baker who in the 1600s made lots and lots and lots of money on this medieval fashion statement and so when he built a very ostentatious house, it was derisively nicknamed “Piccadilly.” Thus the street and circus were named.

Maybe one day, there’ll be a High-Heel Lane or Ripped Jeans Corner or I’m-With-Stupid-Teeshirt Avenue. Maybe even Piazza Socks with Crocs.

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