Yes, it’s back. Quite contrary to popular demand, my occasional little look at where some of the words and sayings we use in everyday life come from – which means that we return once more to the olden days.
In medieval times there was nothing the royalty and nobility liked better than going around slaughtering animals (as some still do). If the poor folk tried it, they were the ones who got slaughtered. But it wasn’t all bad. If the nobles killed a deer and brought it back for a feast in the castle, they ate all the best bits but did save some for their underlings. In particular, the servants were given the entrails – called “umbles” – which might be made into a pie: hence the term eating humble pie.
The phrase was still in use in its literal sense well into the seventeenth century – Samuel Pepys talks in his diaries of eating such delicacies . Presumably the original medieval idea would have been that someone who ate umble pie knew his place in society – hence ‘humble’ – but the phrase has somehow drifted towards admitting one is in the wrong.