Many of us know a ‘baker’s dozen’ means 13 rather than 12.
Do you know why?
Bread is a really important food.
For many societies and cultures it is part of the staple diet or what they call a ‘primary food source’.
It’s so important that most societies had strict laws about bakers’ goods to make sure they played fair and didn’t cheat anyone.
In Ancient Egypt a baker who cheated people would have their ear nailed to the bakery and in Ancient Babylon a baker who sold a ‘light loaf’ would have their hand chopped off!
Things were still pretty strict by the Middle Ages when the British passed the ‘Assize of Bread and Ale’ in 1266/7 which said how much a farthing loaf should be based on the price of wheat:
By the consent of the whole realm of England, the measure of the king was made; that is to say: that an English penny, called a sterling round, and without any clipping, shall weigh thirty-two wheat corns in the midst of the ear, and twenty-pence do make an ounce, and twelve ounces one pound, and eight pounds do make a gallon of wine, and eight gallons of wine do make a London bushel, which is the eighth part of a quarter.
Bakers could be fined, punished and lose their hand just like the poor Babylonians!
To make sure they didn’t accidentally cheat people, bakers started giving customers an extra loaf. So when they ordered 12, they got 13 – a bakers dozen.