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Which makes the Pied Piper pied: his appearance or his temperament?

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Answer: his appearance

That which is multicolored - especially black and white like the European magpie - is pied.

The earliest use of the adjective pied is in reference to the pyed freres, an order of friars who wore black and white.

Browning's poem The Pied Piper is from 1845.


Do you know the poem (I think it is Whittier) "Pied Beauty"? He uses the word "couple-coloured". It starts "Glory be to God for dappled things". Just a thought prompted by your word. I remember my grandfather's draught horse (as in Clydesdale) was described as "pie-bald", or is it "pi-bald"?

Wonderful. What interesting tid-bits. (I don't know the origin of that word either.) My Dad played in a wild jazz band in the 30's called the Pie-eyed Piper and his Dungeon Rats!

The OED gives 1382 as the earliest use. I had no idea the word was related to the pie of magpie, itself from the Latin pica (=magpie). Fascinating. cf also Hopkins "Pied beauty" of 1877.

When I used to raise Parrots and Parakeets - the mutil-colred ones where indeed refferred to as 'Pied' but not restricted to black and white. Also Pied parrots have spots. A milti-colored parrot without spots isusually refferd by where the colors are most prominent. i.e. blue throated, yellow tailed, and sometimes just miticolored such and such.

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