Pygg was the name of a dense red clay that was used to make inexpensive household items in medieval Britain. The word ‘pygg’ became obsolete, however, as pronunciation changed markedly in southern England in the latter half of the 15th century. Originally, pygg sounded something like pug (i.e. pugmill), but after the Great Vowel Shift it was pronounced pig. So, what had been pronounced pug jar was then called pig jar. Well, since that sounded like the word for the animal then spelled pigge, a homonym was born. At some point, pig jar made the transition to piggy jar. All along, a pygg/pig/piggy jar, held coin and was kept in the kitchen for household expenses. Loose coin was banked in the piggy jar and, thus, it became piggy bank.
Then, as now, people were concerned with money. And the start of a new year brings much promise. It doesn’t matter if New Year’s Day in your culture is judged by the lunar or solar calendar. It doesn’t matter when New Year’s comes for a particular culture. New Year’s around the world is a time for looking ahead. That’s why New Year’s is associated with lucky foods. My friend, Lori, ate black-eyed peas every New Year’s Day to ensure luck and good fortune. She wanted what everyone wants: good health, enough food, and a little money to salt away. Enter the piggy bank! Photos in this slide show display piggy banks around the world. The idea caught on, spread the world over, and the modern-day pygg jar is now quite universal. I’ve adopted the piggy bank for Jane Street Clayworks’ icon this New Year’s. I wish you prosperity and abundance in the new year. I am grateful and thankful to you for reading my blog and hope it will enrich your life in 2011. May Fortuna favor you and Happy New Year’s!