Answer: Bait or Lunch Box !
The interest in language and Lancashire expressions in particular seems to have caught everyone’s imagination at present. To the question in hand, do Lancastrians call their lunch boxes ‘bait boxes’ and if so why? To attempt to shed some light on this little gem we can begin as usual with the trustworthy Oxford dictionary. Here, we find that ‘bait’ is deciphered as food to entice prey, or, an allurement, not necessarily a clear paradox to what might exist in some lunch boxes across the moors nowadays.
The next step of our investigation has to recognize that Lancashire and Lancashire dialect is, though a unique pattern of expression and sayings, also a living language and one that is always developing and changing. Therefore, to actually define when the term ‘baitbox’ began to be utilized by lads and lasses of the red rose county might prove quite a difficult task. Not having a Lancashire dictionary at hand I cannot check immediately the source and usage of the term ‘bait’ but works such as Dave Dutton’s Lanky Spoken Here or the more recent Lancashire Dialect by Camilla Zajab may well prove to be worthwhile resources to examine further.
What we do know for sure is that the ‘bait box’, though commonly more renown as a box consisting of delicate tit bits to entice fish, such as maggots and worms, is most certainly a term used in the various Lancashire arenas. My Burnley dad was calling is liver and onions lunch a bait box from 1963 onwards. In more recent times, an article in the most honourable Cumberland and Westmorland Herald, in October 2007, revealed a journalist not surprised anymore to be asked ‘what he had in his bait box for lunch’? And even more recently in 2014, the great gradely bbc.co.uk/Lancashire/fun website could still record that ‘bait boxes’ did indeed included ham and cheese sandwiches for workers and not always dead or dying flies.
Naturally, one could dig deeper if one had time and consult some wily philologist or even scan the traditional dialectic poetry of the legendary Ben Brierley and Sam Laycock, both who died at the end of the Nineteenth century, but for now Alice, I think you are going to have to be content with the fact that bait box is indeed a Lancastrian/Cumbrian expression. When and why it came into usage….. another one of our Lancastrian volunteer historians might well wish to inform. Paul, Allen, Johnny?
What better way to end this response than by asking what do you think is the best delicatessen you can put inside such a box? A Hollands Che & O would be a must, otherwise a ham and cheese with Branston Pickle always goes down well with a nice cup of hot tea. Put the kettle on mum!
Drop us a line anytime!
Peter John Fyles