the sources of some phrases....

Bradley, Beth M Beth.M.Bradley at UWSP.EDU
Tue Apr 4 03:52:11 UTC 2000

        This is a bit long, and I apologize for that, but for those of you
with enough time to read it, it's pretty interesting, and I'm curious if
anyone knows if any of it is true.
        -Beth Bradley

> LIFE IN THE 1500'S
> Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May
> and were still smelling pretty good by June. However, they were starting
> to
> smell, so brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the b.o.
> Baths equaled a big tub filled with hot water.  The man of the house had
> the
> privilege of the nice clean water, then all the other sons and men, then
> the
> women and finally the children.  Last of all the babies. By then the water
> was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it.  Hence the saying,
> "Don't throw the baby out with the bath water".
> Houses had thatched roofs.  Thick straw, piled high, with no wood
> underneath. It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the pets
> (dogs, cats and other small animals, mice, rats, bugs) lived in the roof.
> When it rained it became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip
> and fall off the roof.  Hence the saying, "It's raining cats and dogs."
> There was nothing to stop things from falling into the house. This posed a
> real problem in the bedroom where bugs and other droppings could really
> mess
> up your nice clean bed.  So, they found if they made beds with big posts
> and
> hung a sheet over the top, it addressed that problem.  Hence
> those beautiful big 4 poster beds with canopies.  I wonder if this is
> where
> we get the saying Good night and don't let the bed bugs bite........
> The floor was dirt.  Only the wealthy had something other than dirt, hence
> the saying "dirt poor."  The wealthy had slate floors which would get
> slippery in the winter when wet. So they spread thresh on the floor to
> help
> keep their footing. As the winter wore on they kept adding more thresh
> until
> when you opened the door it would all start slipping outside.  A piece of
> wood was placed at the entry way, hence a "thresh hold".
> They cooked in the kitchen in a big kettle that always hung over the fire.
> Every day they lit the fire and added things to the pot.  They mostly ate
> vegetables and didn't get much meat. They would eat the stew for dinner
> leaving leftovers in the pot to get cold overnight and then start
> over the next day.  Sometimes the stew had food in it that had been in
> there
> for a month. Hence the rhyme:  peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas
> porridge in the pot nine days old."
> Sometimes they could obtain pork and would feel really special when that
> happened. When company came over, they would bring out some bacon and hang
> it to show it off.  It was a sign of wealth and that a man "could really
> bring home the bacon." They would cut off a little to share with guests
> and
> would all sit around and "chew the fat."
> Those with money had plates made of pewter.  Food with a high acid content
> caused some of the lead to leach onto the food. This happened most often
> with tomatoes, so they stopped eating tomatoes... for 400 years.
> Most people didn't have pewter plates, but had trenchers - a piece of wood
> with the middle scooped out like a bowl. Trenchers were never washed and a
> lot of times worms got into the wood.  After eating off wormy trenchers,
> they would get "trench mouth."
> Bread was divided according to status.  Workers got the burnt bottom of
> the
> loaf, the family got the middle, and guests got the top, or the "upper
> crust".
> Lead cups were used to drink ale or whiskey.  The combination would
> sometimes knock them out for a couple of days.  Someone walking along the
> road would take them for dead and prepare them for burial. They were laid
> out on the kitchen table for a couple of days and the family would gather
> around and eat and drink and wait and see if they would wake up.  Hence
> the
> custom of holding a "wake".
> England is old and small, and they started running out of places to bury
> people.  So, they would dig up coffins and would take their bones to a
> house
> and re-use the grave.  In reopening these coffins, one out of 25 coffins
> were found to have scratch marks on the inside and they realized they had
> been burying people alive.  So they thought they would tie a string on
> their
> wrist and lead it through the coffin and up through the ground and tie it
> to
> a bell. Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night to listen
> for the bell.  Hence on the  "graveyard shift" they would know that
> someone
> was "saved by the bell" or he was a "dead ringer".

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