the sources of some phrases....

Anne Lambert annelamb at GNV.FDT.NET
Wed Apr 5 01:16:06 UTC 2000

Most of these sound like folk etymology, but "dirt poor" may be reasonable--or
perhaps it's jsut that the poor didn't have the opportunity and motivation to
stay clean.
    Girls carrying flowers may have a sexual symbolism--as young women are
often compared to flowers in poetry--for example Skelton's "Merry Margaret, as
midsummer flower."  I'd need to do research on this.

"Bradley, Beth M" wrote:

>         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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