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.


13 responses to “Bobby pin — origin of the word

  1. Very cool idea – word origins! Perusing these and also word phrase books at Tattered Cover is my idea of a good time! I’ll be watching your blog for more, Bob.

  2. Woody Woodward

    It’s funny, one of my Soviet Union mission trips originated in Gomersbach, Germany. While I was staying with a German born, Russian pastor and his family, they fixed me what they call “Pizza Pie!” I was surprised to find discover when served, it was nothing more than a very thin pancake with sugar on top! Talking about disappointment! But when you are on a mission trip, you follow the precepts of the Gospel of Luke 10. That is: You eat whatever is set before you and you sleep where you are welcomed!

  3. Thanks MaryJo The English language is very interesting.

  4. Hey It could have been worse. I like pizza (Godfather’s had the best) that has sugar, cinnamon and apples.
    Ask your lovely wife about bobby pins, although she is too young to remember. Right!

  5. Woody Woodward

    I will send you her comments on Monday! Bob, you and Rhonda have a blessed Lord’s Day!

  6. Thanks, and you too.

  7. Marcie Willms

    Very informative! I learned something today. Well, two things actually. I learned the origin for the name “bobby pin” and how the women of the 20s all managed to create those gorgeous waves in their hair. Great posting!!!

  8. Only bad girls wore bobs, and God apparently disapproved of them:

    Why do you bob your hair, girls?
    You’re doing mighty wrong;
    God gave it for a glory
    And you should wear it long .
    You spoil your lovely hair, girls,
    You keep yourself in style;
    Before you bob your hair, girls,
    Just stop and think a while.
    -Blind Alfred Reed, 1927

  9. wordsbybob

    Glad you learned something. That is what I am here for I guess.

  10. wordsbybob

    Good one. I sent you an email asking to use the poem.

  11. Great response to my bobbypins questions. I suppose you are expecting baked goodies…be patient

  12. The poem is actually the lyrics to a song that Blind Alfred Reed wrote and recorded in the 1920s. He was kind of an uptight guy all the way around.

  13. wordsbybob

    DE You didn’t read the blog post close enough. It said a LIFETIME supply.
    Can’t wait.