Tuesday 25 January 2011

Thimble Pie

When we were small, there was nothing more likely to set us squealing with laughter when we had had the temerity to answer my father back on any point, than the threat of do you want some chin pie? This meant he was going to rub the bristles of his unshaved face against our cheek. We loved it as much as tickles and would giggle and laugh until our eyes ran, our jaws seized, diaphragms hurt and we had to beg a pause to gulp for breath. In A Family Affair: My Bradford Childhood, 1900-11 a delightful memoir written by Kathleen Binns in the late eighties, Kathleen recalls a visit to her adored grandmother. Kathleen is not threatened with chin pie but thimble pie. This meant a swift chastising tap by a thimble covered finger. But why pie? By the way, this image is of a 19th century marine ivory thimble holder modelled as a miniature Swiss cottage.


  1. Oh my goodness Chin Pie! I had not even thought about that for about 40 years. I remember giggling and running away while my dad chased me. Thank you for reminding me!

  2. I just found your post when Googling "thimble pie." I still use it on my daughter today (sans thimble)! My version (without the thimble) is about as minimal as corporal punishment comes. If my daughter starts getting sassy and in such a mood that she can't be reasoned with, I just quickly flick my index finger on the top of her head, an inch or so above her forehead. It bruises her ego far more than her crown. My grandmother (born 1911) was the queen of "thimble pies." If she ever started to get stern with us b/c we were misbehaving, she would ask us, "Do you want a thimble pie?" Then we straightened up very quickly. My mother says she never actually used a thimble, either, so sometime between the early 1900s and the 1940s, the practice had softened to exclude the thimble in our family.

    For me, I reserve it for those moments when I feel like screaming or smacking a child across the cheek (something I would never do). In our household, a quick flick on the top of the head works likea charm to snap a sassy kid back in line.