Daily Archives: May 15, 2009

Bobby pin — origin of the word

flickr  Bitchbuzz

flickr Bitchbuzz

Bobby pins?
I am starting a new category on my blog called word origins.

I got an email from SAMUPA who I know personally.  She wanted to know the origin of the item called the bobby pin.  I can only assume this is an accessory she used as she was growing up.  Since she is rumored to produce lots of yummy baked good, I figured I would do this, and be rewarded with a lifetime supply of breads, cakes, muffins, cookies, etc.

Ok, here is the scoop on the bobby pin.

In the 1920s (right SAMUPA?), it became trendy for women to cut their hair short and set it tightly against their head in a wavy pattern called bobbed hair, or a “bob.”  To hold the hair in place they used a double-pronged hairpin that slid into hair with the prongs open and then the flexible prongs closed over the hair holding it in place

A unique feature of the bobby pins is its ability to look almost invisible since it is, or was, available in black, brown, bronze, blonde and gray to go with all hair colors.  (This was before red, purple and blue hair.)

Bobby pins are still used today for all kinds of hairstyles including buns, up-dos and twists.  A trademark on the term “bobby pin” was held for some decades by Smith Victory Corporation of Buffalo, New York.  The term is no longer a valid trademark, so go ahead and use it.

There are many other uses for this longstanding little metal loop.  In many old movies, they were used for picking locks. In Africa, bobby pins are sometimes used to repair defective sandals.  SAMUPA says they are better than q-tips for ear cleaning–her idea not mine.

Check out this blog about bobby pins and hair.

I will have more origins of words in the future.