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Pilgarlicks make better lovers

01:00 Fri 29th Mar 2002 |

Q. What are you talking about

A. Pilgarlick was a 16th-century term for a bald head and, by extension, a pilgarlick was a bald man. At the time baldness was considered to come about as a result of pathology - didn't anyone look at the empirical evidence of heredity - and as a result many weird and wonderful cures were devised to restore the natural thatch.

Q. Such as

A. One popular 17th-century recipe called for water 'distilled from human hair' mixed with honey. Culpeper offered hope for the pilgarlick with a number of preparations, including: 'Beat linseeds very well, and mix them with sallad-oil; and when you have mixed them, anoint the head therewith, and in three or four times using, it will help you.' He also recommended the application of 'bear's grease...[and] the froth of the sea...[which] trimly decks the head with hair' as well as 'the brain of hare being roasted [which] helps...[the] falling off of hair, the head being anointed with it'.

It was absolutely vital that this rejuvenated barnet only be cut at certain times of the month: 'Crop your hair in the moon's wax, / Ne'er cut it in the wane, / And then of a bald head / You shall never complain.'

Q. Back to the point: what's garlic got to do with baldness

A. Pretty straightforward, really: the Latin verb pilare meant 'to deprive of hair', and this came into English as 'pill' - a variation of the modern verb 'peel' - and the appearance of a bald head was deemed to resemble a peeled clove of garlic.

Q. How did they know about garlic Didn't it first arrive in these islands in the 1970s

A. You may think that the appearance of garlic in the UK was down solely to the likes of Marguerite Patten and Robert Carrier, but wild garlic grows abundantly throughout much of the British Isles and has always been used here for medicinal purposes and - albeit sparingly - in cooking.

Q. Really Any recipes

A. Here's a 15th-century garlic sauce for goose or chicken called Sauce Gauncile:

Thicken 15 fl. oz milk with 2 tablespoons of flour and 1 oz of butter. Add two cloves of garlic crushed in a garlic press, season and simmer for 5 minutes. Spoon over carved meat. (NB with the addition of a pinch of saffron this is also recommended as a sauce for roast pork.)

OK, hardly peasant fare, but if you're in any doubt that garlic was known in pre-Dralon Britain, then the evidence of ancient garlic-related place names should convince you.

Q. Where

A. Garlick Hill in the City of London, at the bottom of which is a church called St James Garlickhythe. According to the 16th-century historian John Stowe this was the area in which garlic was sold.

Whatever, it's got to be better than 'slap head'.

See also the answerbank articles on excrement and barbi-tonsoribus

For more on Phrases & Sayings click here

By Simon Smith

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