Baker’s Dozen

Modern version of the baker's Dozen - the glazed donut dozen, pic: memphisflyer.com

My husband asked me about this expression today and I knew the correct answer but had no idea where it comes from so I thought this might be a good blog post.  A Baker’s dozen is not – you guessed it – 12 but 13.   My original notion, namely that it was some clever marketing ploy to get people to buy at your bakery, not another by giving them 13 bagels for the price of 12 proved to be overly modern.

The expressions seems to be predating modern marketing ploys and date back to the 13th century.  An interesting but historically dubious explanation is that in the England of Henry III bakers who short-changed their customers where severely punished.  We are not talking stuff like jail time or a fine here, we are talking having your hand cut off by an axe.  To avoid such unpleasantness – so the story goes – bakers would bake a 13th of whatever with the dozen thereby reducing the risk of being one short.

Another explanation is that it is easier to bake 13 – as this makes an nice arrangement on a tray 3+2+3+2+3.  I find this unconvincing – baking 13 doesn’t mean you have to sell them all at once – but maybe I am thinking modern marketing again.

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