1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Pie

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PIE. (1) The name of the bird more generally known as the magpie (q.v.). The word comes through the French from Lat. pica (q.v.). It is probably from the black and white or spotted appearance of the bird that the name “pie” or “pye” (Lat. pica) was given to the ordinal, a table or calendar which supplemented that which gave the services for the fixed festivals, &c., and pointed out the effect on them of the festivals rendered movable by the changing date of Easter. An English act of 1549 (3 & 4 Edw. VI. c. 10) abolished “pies” with manuals, legends, primers and other service books. The parti-coloured appearance of the magpie also gives rise to the term “piebald,” applied to an animal, more particularly a horse, which is marked with large irregular patches of white and black; where the colour is white and some colour other than black, the more appropriate word is “skew-bald,” i.e. marked with “skew” or irregular patches. (2) A dish made of meat, fish or other ingredients, also of vegetables or fruit, baked in a covering of pastry; in English usage, where “fruit” is the ingredient, the dish is generally called a “tart,” except in the case of “apple-pie.” The word appears early in the 14th century of meat or fish pies.

The expression “to eat humble-pie,” i.e. to make an apology, to retract or recant, is a facetious adaptation of “umbles” (O. Fr. nombles, connected with Lat. lumbus, loin or umbilicus, navel), the inner parts of a deer, to “humble” (Lat. humilis, lowly). An “umble-pie,” made of the inner parts of a deer or other animal, was once a favourite dish. “Printers' pie,” i.e. a mass of confused type, is a transferred sense of “pie,” the dish, or of “pie,” the ordinal, from the difficulty of decipherment.