Jun 052006

Lay asked me why we call them “piggy banks.” I had to admit I had no clue, so went searching.

No one invented the piggy bank. The piggy banks’ origin owes more to the history of language, than to an individual inventor. In old english (around the 15th century) there was a word “pygg” which referred to a type of orange clay. People made all kinds of useful objects out of clay, including dishes and jars to hold spare change. Around the 18th century, the word “pygg” now sounded the same as the word for the animal “pig”. An unknown person(s) thought to shape a? “pygg” jar, to look just like a real “pig”. Perhaps an order came in for a “pygg” jar and the potter misunderstood.

OK, after that, “bank” must be simple. Not so fast. Bank originally meant “bench”; you can probably see the connection between the words. Money lenders in Northern Italy once did business in open areas, or big open rooms, with each lender working from his own bench or table. If he went “broke,” the piece of furniture was literally broken to signify that he wasn’t in business anymore.

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