Baker’s Dozen

Meaning of “Baker’s Dozen”

The phrase “baker’s dozen” means more than a dozen, thirteen doughnuts, or bread loaf or pastries. Sometimes, it could even be fourteen. In other words, when we buy a dozen of an item such as vegetables, fruits, or a bakery snacks, the seller gives one or two extra items out of love or generosity. They also do so to let the customers return to their shops.

Origin of “Baker’s Dozen”

The phrase “baker’s dozen” originated from the usual routine work of bakers for adding an extra loaf of bread with a dozen. It is stated that bakers were specifically instructed about the size and number of loaves of bread during the 13th century, the reign of Henry III. The bakers were also afraid of punishment if the weight was lesser. Hence, they would add an extra loaf along with a dozen loaves. However, in print format, it was first used in 1599 in Tu Quoque by John Cooke as: “Mine’s a baker’s dozen: Master Bubble, tell your money.”

Examples in Literature

Example #1

The Baker’s Dozen by Jan Oskar Hansen

The baker, in our village, a man who loved his craft,
collaborated with the enemy in the war of 1940-45, as
it was the only way he could get fine flour and other
stuff to bake his delicious cakes and white bread.
Our baker was a pleasant, brown eyed, a short rotund
man who always had boiled sweet in his pocket for
the children when he went for his afternoon walk.

His wife was more of an administrative type, dressed
in black, starched blouse and ankle long skirt, and in
her blue eyes ice floes drifted; chased children, beggars
and dogs with her broom, but had been seen feeding
birds, bread crumbs on cold winter days.

During daylight the enemy and Nazi officials came and
bought the baker’s enticing products; in nights or early
mornings those who could afford it, but didn’t like to be
seen associating with a traitor, came and bought fresh
bread, aromatic Danish pastry and chocolate éclairs.

When the war ended, as wars must, the baker was sent
to jail as a collaborator, but he didn’t sit there long
I suspect – but cannot prove this- that his night visitors,
mostly lawyers, doctors and business men spoke well of
him into the right authorities. It is odd to think during
all this upheaval few, if any, knew that it was his wife
who wore an iron cross under her blouse.

The poem narrates the story of a baker and his wife. During WWII, the baker collaborates with the enemies as they wanted flour and other ingredients. His wife worked the opposite as she chose to feed poor people and abandoned animals. When the war ends, the baker is caught, and his wife receives Iron Cross for her noble deeds. Though it sounds funny, it’s ironic because the baker must be the giver and helper during the war.

Example #2

Deep Sea Diver by Edward Droste and Matt Valerio and sung by Grizzly Bear

I’m a deep sea diver with my fins
And underneath your current I do swim
A baker’s dozen thirteen pearls
And when I try them on my toes do curl
Cos you got everything I want
The car, the house, the dog
You got everything I want

Just keep me a while
Just keep me a while
Just keep me a while
Just keep me a while

The song is about a person who brags before his beloved that though he can bring thirteen pearls equating the number with the phrase as “baker’s dozen,” which are also thirteen or more. However, when he tried to collect pearls, his toes curled. Therefore, he asks his beloved to stay contented with what he has done for her.

Example #3

Mia’s Baker’s Dozen by Coco Simon

This novel revolves around the character of Mia, who is trying to adjust with her new siblings after her mother’s second marriage. However, instead of facing the usual hostility and estrangement, she finds her parents on both sides very cooperative. As she starts learning Spanish, she gets help and support from three very cooperative parents. It means she has one extra parent just like the ‘baker’s dozen’.

Example #4

Baker’s Dozen by Amey Zeigler

The story displays the skills of Andy Miller, a detective, and Hugh Donaldson, a martial arts veteran. They are pulled into the mystery when Miller’s stepbrother is killed. So, they are determined to catch his killer. They travel across North America, as they try to connect dots to bring the murder to justice. Perhaps their combined skills illustrate the meaning of this phrase, which means more than one.

Examples in Sentences as Literary Devices

Example #1: “Allen was sad as the fruit vendor didn’t add another apple. However, the vendor responded that it is not always baker’s dozen with him.”

Example #2: “Lily has a habit of counting money more than three times before handing the change back to the customer. She knows what a baker’s dozen is and does not want to lose her business.”

Example #3: “Like baker’s dozen, Matt’s counting always increases one to the total of dozen.”

Example #4: “Barry wanted to help little children in his bakery. So he’d always follow baker’s dozen rule and give extra pastry to the children.”

Example #5: “If you want to be generous and kind, be like a baker and offer baker’s dozen. It’s nothing wrong with giving an extra pie or a cookie to a homeless person.”