History Tid Bits, thanks to Arleen
HISTORY TID BITS
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 still smelled pretty good by June. However, they were starting
to smell, so 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
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 dogs,
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
really 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 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 in the entranceway. Hence the
saying 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 the 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 and death. This happened most often with tomatoes, so for the
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 "upper
Lead cups were used to drink ale or whisky. The combination would
sometimes knock the imbibers out for a couple of days. Someone walking
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 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 and
they realized they had been burying people alive. So they thought 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."
Beds did not have box springs, but webbed rope. The rope would sag over
time and had to be tightened periodicaly - thus, "sleep tight".
In Ireland beer was sold by the pint or quart there were no glasses.
Barkeeps had a board where they would keep a record of each patrons Pints
and Quarts of beer. They were responsible to collect from each customer.
Therefore, watch your Ps and Qs.
And that's the truth... Now , whoever said that History was boring ! !
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