Earlier today I mentioned a quandary I’m in… I thought I had a title for my next book, but for various reasons now I haven’t. I said I would have to put on my thinking cap… and this got me thinking about what a thinking cap is… did people used to have special head-wear for when they were deep in thought. I’m just going to have a think so I’m going to pop on my tartan beret as I’m going to be thinking about Scotland… I’m going to be unavailable for the next little while as I’m just donning my fez to ponder on the Devon/Cornwall scone conundrum…
I looked up the phrase and found that something similar first appears in print in 1605:
Robert Armin, Foole upon Foole – “The cobbler puts off his considering cap, ‘why sir,’ says he, ‘I sent them home but now.'”
In this illustration, the considering cap is taken off!
Thinking of caps, there’s also a nightcap – the word has come to mean a late night drink, warm milky beverages or something alcoholic to help sen you off for a good night’s sleep. However there were actual night caps, usually woollen or other soft cloth which you would wear in bed before the days of central heating and warm houses. I didn’t realise but I recognised it as soon as I saw the illustrations, there were male and female night caps. Men had long caps, often with a bobble or tassel on the end, which they could wind round their necks, women would sometimes wind a scarf or piece of cloth round their heads like a turban, or wear something more like a bobbleless bobble hat, or a mob-cap.
Now what is a mob-cap? Or is it mop-cap? Actually it is mob-cap, and its a soft material head covering, sometimes pleated, with elastic or a ribbon so hair could be pushed into it, much favoured by maids, but also any women for use indoors as a type of indoor bonnet.
So, thinking cap, night-cap, mob-cap… And here is a link to an interesting blog about the consideration cap:
The kitchen maid in my illustration is wearing the teeniest weeniest mob-cap!