In a bun, in a bun!

Today’s Bizarro:


(If you’re puzzled by the odd symbol in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there’s just one in this strip — see this Page.)

Hairstyles; baked goods, including buns, rolls, and loaves; buttocks; and of course Monty Python’s lupin(e) bandit Dennis Moore

From NOAD2:

noun bun: 1 a bread roll of various shapes and flavorings, typically sweetened and often containing dried fruit. 2 [metaphorical development from sense 1] a hairstyle in which the hair is drawn back into a tight coil at the back of the head. 3 [metaphorical development from sense 1] (buns) North American informal a person’s buttocks.

A canonical bun in sense 1 (the foodstuff):

(#2) Hot cross buns

From Wikipedia:

A hot cross bun is a spiced sweet bun made with currants or raisins, marked with a cross on the top, and traditionally eaten on Good Friday in the British Isles, Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa and some parts of America. The buns mark the end of Lent and different parts of the hot cross bun have a certain meaning, including the cross representing the crucifixion of Jesus, and the spices inside signifying the spices used to embalm him at his burial. They are now available all year round in some places.

The prototypical bun has the shape of a spherical cap, with a rounded top and flat bottom,

(#3) Spherical cap, with its 3 relevant dimensions

a shape that motivates the metaphorical developments in senses 2 (the hairstyle) and 3 (the bodypart).

The Bizarro. Before I delve more into hairstyles, foodstuffs, and bodyparts, some thoughts on the cartoon in #1, which exploits hairstyle bun in the compound man bun as a pun on the foodstuff bun — I know, a bun pun, how cheap is that? — to conjure up a chain of man X compounds with other X baked goods hairstyles in them. The man bagel is in fact a comically exaggerated version of the doughnut / donut bun hairstyle for women:


(though the others are pretty much over the top).

In any case, the extension is from bun to other nouns denoting baked goods. From NOAD2:

pl. noun baked goods: bread, cakes, pastries, and similar items of food that are cooked in an oven: the moment you open the door at Billy’s Bakery the aroma of baked goods overwhelms you | bran can impart a hearty flavor to breads and other baked goods.

So from buns, we go to loaves, biscuits, croissants, bagels, and (holiday) cookies.

Note on the compound man bun. This noun is one of a small set of man X compounds where the head noun X refers to something conventionally associated with women in the relevant cultural context (the bun hairstyle in the modern Western world, for instance) — man purse and man boobs are other examples — indicating that the referent is associated with men rather than women. A bun hairstyle can be worn by anyone, but by default it’s feminine; a male bun is specifically a masculine thing. Compare also male secretary, male nurse, etc.

Hairstyles. From Wikipedia:

A bun is a type of hairstyle wherein the hair is pulled back from the face, twisted or plaited, and wrapped in a circular coil around itself, typically on top or back of the head or just above the neck. A bun can be secured with a barrette, bobby pins, one or more hair sticks, a hairnet, or a pen or pencil. Hair may also be wrapped around a piece called a “rat”. Alternatively, hair bun inserts, or sometimes rolled up socks, may also be used to create donut-shaped buns. Buns may be tightly gathered, or loose and more informal. [Though this text is gender-neutral, in modern times buns have been almost exclusively female hairstyles.]

[Then a section on Chinese topknots, for both sexes. And then:]

The modern man bun style is reported to have started in London around 2010 with the first Google Trends examples started to appear in 2013 and searches showed a steep increase through 2015. Some of the first celebrities to wear the style were Jared Leto, Joakim Noah, Chris Hemsworth, Leonardo DiCaprio and Orlando Bloom. The hairstyle is also associated with Brooklyn hipsters.

For modern American women, the bun has been associated with primness, uptightness, and the like, especially in the school teacher stereotype:

(#5) Bun on a school marm, by Calgary caricature artist Kelly Gannon

Stereotypical School Marm: To continue on with the cartoon stereotypes, this time I drew the school teacher. Again, there are very few school teachers that resemble my cartoon, but in the cartooning world, the cartoonist has a stereotype they “draw” from. In this case, she’s past the age of retirement, cranky (perhaps that’s why), a little outdated in her fashion and hairstyle and voila…there you have it…a stereotypical school marm [Gannon’s text, not mine]

Websites on the bun hairstyle for women tend to trumpet its fashionably sexy femininity (presumably to counter the stereotype of steely tight reserve), while websites on man buns go overboard in extolling its hip masculinity (to counter the stereotype of femininity); we get hot young guys:


Foodstuffs. The item bun above, now the closely related roll and loaf. Here I’m talking about the lexical items, since I haven’t yet figured out the structure of the conceptual categories in my culture — but it will quickly become clear that the labels and the categories are very complexly associated.

From NOAD2:

noun roll: 4 a very small loaf of bread, to be eaten by one person: soup with a roll.

(#7) Tomato soup with a (dinner) roll

noun loaf: a quantity of bread that is shaped and baked in one piece and usually sliced before being eaten: a loaf of bread | two loaves in the oven; an item of food formed into an oblong shape and sliced into portions [as in salmon loaf or meatloaf].

Loaves and rolls are longer than wide: the prototypical loaf is oblong, the prototypical roll is cylindrical. In contrast, the prototypical bun is a spherical segment.

Loaves and rolls of bread are eaten differently: loaves are typically sliced, rolls are typically broken — torn or cut — into pieces.


a hot dog bun is a split (soft) loaf, for containing a hot dog or other foodstuff

a hamburger bun is two (soft) buns, for containing a hamburger or other foodstuff

a dinner roll (#7 above) is a bun — unsweetened, but in every other way a bun

a lobster roll is a lobster-filled hot dog bun (that is, a filled split loaf)

Chinese-style buns are filled dumplings (steamed rather than baked, but at least bun-shaped)

sushi rolls are not baked goods at all, though they are cylindrical (and they are served by being sliced like loaves)

Bodyparts. The metaphor in buns ‘buttocks’ — via the spherical cap again — has been illustrated many, many times on this blog, mostly with male, though sometimes with female, buttocks. Here, just a note on the treatment of the noun buns vs. buttocks.

Buns is treated above (in NOAD2) as a pl-only noun in the rump sense, while the same dictionary gives buttock as the relevant noun, with both a sg and a pl. Predictably, I suppose, bun ‘buttock’ has now been created by some speakers, by back-formation. The examples I’ve found have been from male-oriented umliterature, but there might well be wider use; some left bun cites:

His left hand rested on his [own] hip; he moved it slowly to his left bun and felt its contour (The Champions by Eldot (Xlibris, 2013))

“I suppose with great effort I could rise to the occasion,” I reply while giving him a squeeze on his left bun. (Abominations: A Novel by Paul R Brenner (Xlibris, 2008))

A rosy glow on his left bun. (“I woke both bright & early”, web erotic poetry on

In a bun, in a bun! The title of this posting. An allusion to a Monty Python sketch in which the lupin(e) bandit Dennis Moore stops a coach on the highway in 1747. The lead-up to my punchline is given in my 7/15/12 posting “Lupines”; the pay-off, involving John Cleese (as the highwayman Dennis Moore), Terry Jones, and Eric Idle (Cl, Jo, Id):

Cl I want you to hand over all the lupins you’ve got.
Jo: Lupins?
Cl: Yes, lupins. Come on, come on.
Id: What do you mean, lupins?
Cl: Don’t try to play for time.
Id: I’m not, but… the flower lupin?
Cl: Yes, that’s right.
Jo: Well we haven’t got any lupins.
Girl: Honestly.
Cl: Look, my friends. I happen to know that this is the Lupin Express.
Jo: Damn!
Girl: Oh, here you are.
Cl: In a bunch, in a bunch!
Jo: Sorry.

Cleese’s “In a bunch, in a bunch!” is fussy and peremptory.

One Response to “In a bun, in a bun!”

  1. arnold zwicky Says:

    A Waynovision cartoon on man loaf from 9/18/17:

    Wayno and Dan Piraro both swear they came to the idea independently.

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