Some of these have been around a long time, but we thought
they were interesting. Enjoy!
In Shakespeare's time, mattresses were secured on bed frames
by ropes. When you pulled on the ropes the mattress
tightened, making the bed firmer to sleep on. Hence the
phrase "goodnight, sleep tight."
It was the accepted practice in Babylon 4,000 years ago that
for a month after the wedding, the bride's father would
supply his son-in-law with all the mead he could drink. Mead
is a honey beer and because their calendar was lunar based,
this period was called the honey month or what we know today
as the honeymoon.
In English pubs, ale is ordered by pints and quarts. So in
old England, when customers got unruly, the bartender would
yell at them mind their own pints and quarts and settle
down. It's where we get the phrase "mind your P's and Q's."
Many years ago in England, pub frequenters had a whistle
baked into the rim or handle of their ceramic cups. When
they needed a refill, they used the whistle to get some
service. "Wet your whistle" is the phrase inspired by this
In Scotland, a new game was invented. It was entitled
Gentlemen Only Ladies Forbidden.... and thus the word GOLF
entered into the English language.
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
sons, 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
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.
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."
*** It looks like many of the above colloquialisms
are not true according to Snopes and other sites. But you
don't believe everything you read do you? :)
Added April 23, 2009
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