Peter Piper didn’t pick a “pack” of pickled peppers. Peter Piper picked a “peck” of pickled peppers. But have you ever wondered what the heck a peck was?
It’s a bafflement of generations. We practice the tongue twister, never teasing the meaning from the lines. But it’s time to elevate our comprehension.
In this situation, a “peck” is a term of measurement. There are four pecks in a bushel.
How much is a bushel? A bushel is thirty-two quarts. A bushel of peaches is about fifty pounds. A bushel of green peppers is about thirty.
So, if you’re imagining a bushel as a really big basket, imagine a peck as a significantly smaller basket.
The real Peter Piper seems to be a man named Pierre Poivre, who was a one-armed French colonial administrator during the mid-1700s known for stealing nuts from Dutch trade ships to plant in his garden. A bandit horticulturist? Maybe. True? Possible. But at least you now know how much the man—real or fictitious—picked (or maybe stole).
And if you’re curious about how much wood a woodchuck can chuck, we’ll leave that to another day, though I will remind you that a “woodchuck” is the same thing as a “groundhog.”
Do you have any other word questions from favorite tongue twisters or nursery rhymes? Let me know. I’m happy to help!
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