As with many words in the English language, the word ‘pea’ came about by mistake.
The singular form used to be ‘pease’. This was the Middle English noun. Over time, people started thinking ‘pease’ was the plural form of the word. As a result, the ‘se’ was dropped and ‘pea’ became the new singular. The nursery rhyme, written today, would be:
“Pea porridge hot, pea porridge cold, pea porridge in the pot – nine days old!”
Similarly, other words like ‘sweetheart’ (from ‘sweetard’), ‘shamefaced’ (from ‘shamefast’) and ‘buttonhole’ (from ‘buttonhold’) all owe their existence to mishearings.
If only I were back in school. I would spell all these words the old — correct — way, wait for my work to be scrawled on in red pen, and spark a healthy debate about spelling and grammar rules.
About the author
Christopher Berry is a qualified solicitor and aspiring copywriter who interned with us this year. He specialises in writing for business, children's books, science fiction for adults, and poetry. He enjoys creating pictures out of words, has a weakness for time travel, and his favourite word is 'defenestrate'.