Fact or Fiction?

posted on January 8, 2012 by Ian MacPhee

We older people need to learn something new every day ... just to keep the grey matter tuned up! So here are some stories about the origins of everyday phrases. Are they Fact or Fiction - well you be the judge!
Where did the phrase "Piss Poor" come  from? 
Interesting History. 
They used to use urine to tan  animal skins, so families used to all pee in a pot and then once a day it was taken  and sold to the tannery ... if you had to do this to survive you were "Piss Poor". 
But worse than that were  the really poor folk who couldn't even afford to buy a  pot ... they "didn't have a pot to pee in"  and were the lowest of the low.

The next time you are washing your  hands and complain because the water temperature isn't just how you like it, think about how things used to be.
Here are some  facts about the 1500s
Most people got  married in June because they took their yearly bath in May, 
And they still smelled pretty good  by June.  However, since they were starting to smell, 
Brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the body odor.
Hence the custom today of carrying a bouquet when getting married.
Baths consisted of 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 cats and other small animals
  (mice, 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 mess up your nice clean  bed.  Hence, a bed with big posts and a sheet hung over the top afforded some protection. That's how canopy beds came into  existence.
The floor was dirt. Only  the wealthy had something other than dirt. Hence the saying, "Dirt poor." The  wealthy had slate floors that would get slippery
 in the winter when wet, so they  spread thresh (straw) on floor to help keep their footing.  As the winter wore on, they added  more thresh until, when you opened the door it would all start slipping  outside a piece of wood was placed in the entrance-way. Hence: a thresh hold.
(Getting  quite an education, aren't you?)
In those  old days, they cooked in the kitchen with a big kettle that always hung over the fire.  Every day they lit the fire and added things to the pot.  They ate mostly vegetables and did not 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 stew had food in it that  had been there for quite a while.  Hence the rhyme: 
"Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old".

Sometimes  they could obtain pork, which made them feel quite special.  When visitors came over, they would  hang up their bacon to show off.  It was a sign of wealth that a man could, "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 high acid content caused some of the lead to leach onto the food causing lead poisoning death. This happened most often with tomatoes so for the next 400 years or so tomatoes were considered poisonous.
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 whisky.  The combination would sometimes knock the imbibers 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".
Englandis old and small and the  local folks started running out of places to bury people so they would dig up coffins and  would take the bones to a bone-house, and reuse the grave.  
When reopening these coffins, 1 out of 25 coffins were found to have scratch marks on the inside. They realized  they had been burying people alive so they would tie a string on the  wrist of the corpse, 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 (the graveyard shift.) to listen for the bell; thus, someone could be,
"saved by the bell" or was considered "a dead ringer".
And that's the  truth.  Now, whoever said History was  boring?!
So get out there and educate someone!  ~~~  Share these facts with a  friend.  

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