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Lippies, Firlots, and Forpets, or what the heck is a peck?

October 11, 2011

In the early 1800s, Scotland had it all figured out.

A peck was equal to 49 liters of dry measured crops such as peas, wheat and beans.
However, for barley, oats and malt, a peck was only 13 liters. Considering what was made with barley, oats and malt at the time, I think I understand their logic.

Of course 49 liters is a pretty large volume, so a society engaged in such brisk commerce as the Scots would need to have smaller units of measure in order to split pecks. Easy enough- 4 lippies together make a peck. Don’t know what a lippie is? The same measure applied to forpets, so apparently forpets and lippies were interchangeable. I suspect it was bad business to mix lippies and forpets, for example, to make up a peck of 2 lippies and 2 forpets. I don’t have evidence of this, but in an economy that valued the base ingredients of Scotch Whisky 3 1/2 times that of the food staples of the day, I wouldn’t take the chance.

If there were Sam’s Clubs in 1800 Scotland, we would all agree that modest pecks would be insufficient and larger unit of measure would be necessary. Fortunately they would have had firlots; get 4 pecks, you have a firlot. Or 16 lippies. Or 16 forpets.

My suspicion is that the Scots only had these measures in place to confuse the British when trading with them, because the Weights and Measures Act of 1824 forced Scotland to convert to imperial units, and still today a peck is merely 2 gallons or 8 quarts of dry measured volume. (Snore…..)

4 pecks make a bushel and at one point a half bushel was a kenning. Eventually enough people preferred saying “half bushel” over “kenning” (hey buddy you shorted me a kenning. Huh?) that “kenning” fell into obsolescence.

“What’s with all the peck talk” you ask.

Tonight, as I was stuffing a couple hundred jalapeno halves with cheese, I couldn’t help wondering if this was how Peter Piper felt when he was picking pecks of peppers and negotiating royalties with Mother Goose. This mass of jalapenos, was it even a peck? Just what the hell is a peck anyway?

And Google makes it easy to find the answers to these inane questions. (Mother Goose had no google, obviously, or she wouldn’t have sent those silly pepper peck questions out to the world for debate.)

Yeah, I had a peck, for sure.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. October 12, 2011 8:57 am

    Just be glad that you didn’t have a hogshead of peppers to stuff. Then not only would you be sick of doing it, you would also have a headache. Are we talking about an ale hogshead? Or an ale hogshead? Or even a wine hogshead?

    Yum, but where’s the bacon???

    • October 12, 2011 8:53 pm

      LOL I didn’t want to handle the camera with severe bacon finger (raw version). It was applied shortly after the picture was taken.

      Seems like I was always waking up in an empty hogshead with a headache before I met my quota. 😉

      2 hogsheads = 1 butt.

      For real.

  2. October 17, 2011 7:35 am

    Great post. I think I might use “forpets” and “lippies” as substitutes for some of my favorite obscenities.

    • October 17, 2011 5:44 pm

      “Get out of my yard you forpet lippie! ”

      Hey that felt good, you might be on to something.

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