If you were recently visiting or moved to London in time for last week’s Diamond Jubilee, a stroll in the vicinity of Buckingham Palace likely took you past the object of today’s Relocation to London Fun Fact: The Bag o’ Nails pub. I’ll never forget first visiting this public house soon after my own relocation to London. It was spring, and my parents were in town, visiting Europe itself for their very first time. Sitting within the cozy wood-paneled intimacy of this quaint watering hole and reading up on the upcoming St. George’s Day, we toasted pints of Old Speckled Hen and wondered what in heck we were drinking and where we were drinking it. A bag of nails hardly sounds like inspiration for such an inviting place, and it’s taken me ever since my relocation to finally learn what it means…or at least the debate over what it means thanks to the book The Old Dog and Duck: The Secret Meanings of Pub Names…
Relocation to London – Team Literal’s Argument
Well, there’s evidently an old joke that goes something along the lines of a man walking into a pub and requesting a room for the night (most pubs do have living space above them, but how many still maintain it as their own lodgings, I couldn’t say—a lot have probably been converted to London apartments for rent that you might check out for your relocation to London. Anyway…). He’s told that one night costs a shilling or only sixpence if he makes his own bed. Presuming this means he just has to tidy the bed linens himself, the man opts for the latter and is handed a bag of nails and wood by the landlord. BAH-DUM-BUM! *ting*
Ah, it’s been four years since my relocation to London, but ye olde British humour never indeed gets olde…So this is what they’ve been telling each other while we Yankees crack priest-and-rabbi jokes.
Relocation to London – Team Figurative’s Argument
Okay, so moving onward to a more literary, touchy-feely interpretation than one would think “Bag of Nails” would derive from, some say it has its origins in mythology. If you say the name five times fast, it arguably starts to sound similar to “bacchanals,” so it’s possible, just possible, that “bag of nails” is what the word was bastardized into over time. Bacchanals were ancient Roman ritual celebrations of Bacchus, the god of wine and debauchery (equivalent to the Greek Dionysus). Rites in his name involved heavy drinking and wild dancing in an attempt to reach a state of divine ecstasy in communion with the god himself. Perhaps, then, particular pubs were named for the hedonistic revelry found within them—step inside a Bag of Nails pub after your relocation to London and decide for yourself. In fact, this is something you should probably research veeerrry thoroughly. And surely participating directly in the ritual would be a most effective way to find the answers you seek…
Relocation to London – Team Historical’s Argument
No one makes a relocation to London without inevitably learning bits of history about its various locations, so you might as well add this to the list. If there’s one thing the British are adamant about, it’s getting their history right, so apparently the Bag o’ Nails pub I specifically referenced earlier isn’t buying what Team Figurative has to say; however, its owners do lean toward the side of Team Literal, if not its particular explanation (that it stems from a joke). While I can’t speak for other establishments of this name, the particular Bag o’ Nails near Buckingham Palace claims to have originally been a blacksmith’s or ironmonger’s shop. The traditional sign for ironmongers was a picture of a bag of nails. Thus, it’s possible the pub took its name in homage to the building’s history when the Bag o’ Nails first opened in 1774. Even this explanation could fall into dispute, however, in the event the owners had just wanted to pick a respectable name versus anything scandalous that could reflect badly on the royal servants frequenting it.
So what are YOU inclined to believe? Does it even matter when the nectar of Bacchus is in the rack and Old Speckled Hen on tap? No indeed, you might not trouble your weary head with such speculations, but you’ll surely want to visit a Bag of Nails or one of its kin to decompress after your relocation to London!