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Health, History, and the English Language



8:12 pm on Nov 21, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

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 that might give you pause before you write the related cliche into your next web page:

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.

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 dogs, cats and other small animals (mice rats, and 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 on the floor to help keep their footing. As the winter wore on, they kept adding more thresh until when you opened the door the thresh sifted out. A piece of wood was placed in the entranceway-hence, a "thresh hold."

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 warming them 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."

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 to be able to "bring home 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, causing lead poisoning and death. This happened most often with tomatoes, so for the next 400 years or so, tomatoes were considered poisonous.

Most people did not have pewter plates, but had trenchers, a piece of wood with the middle scooped out like a bowl. Often trenchers were made from old hard bread. Sometimes they could use them for quite some time. Trenchers were never washed and a lot of times worms and mold got into the wood and old bread. After eating off wormy moldy trenchers, one 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 "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 would find them and they would be prepared 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 to see if they would wake up - hence the custom of holding a "wake."

England is old and small and they started out 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 off 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 listening for a bell. Thus, someone could be "saved by the bell" or was considered a "dead ringer."

And that's the truth... (whoever said History was boring?)


8:16 pm on Nov 21, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator lawman is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Has all of this been confirmed at Snopes? :)




8:55 pm on Nov 21, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member


Fourteen books of the Bible in Vulgate Latin never found in Hebrew, prepared by St Jerome but not fully accepted. Nonetheless the stories found in them reverberate across Christian literature regardless that much has been declared as inauthentic by Jews and Protestant Christians.

Hence apocryphal (adj) - spurious, invented, apocryphal story.

But entertaining!


9:07 pm on Nov 21, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Thanks for the citation, lawman. It was posted on private humor bulletin board with no source credited.


9:25 pm on Nov 21, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Sometime in the murky past a boatload of Spanish on holiday sailed up the St. Lawrence River, took a quick look around, bellowed "Que nada!", and went back to Florida. My Uncle Joe happened to be passing by at the time and thought, "what a lovely name for a country." And that's how Canada came to be.


10:07 pm on Nov 21, 2002 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Oh yeah? You think that's weird?

A looooong time ago in the north of Holland a young herdsman named George said "Nuts! I'm going to England!". So he did. And he joined the navy. When asked for a surname he thought they were asking for previous work experience (something lost in the translation I guess) and said "(from) the cow pasture", but in Dutch of course, which is "van coeverden". So they wrote down his name as Vancouver and he went on to open a highly successful string of bakeries on the west coast of Canada. Apparently Wm. van Horne (big railway tycoon), homesick, loved what he could do with Kugellager, so he named a city after him. And to this day the people of Vancouver still eat Kugellager every June 14th to show how tough they are. And this is where they get the expression "so cool we were spitting ball bearings, man." S'true. I come from Cow Pasture Island. But I don't eat Kugellager.


11:07 pm on Nov 21, 2002 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator lawman is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

This thread is getting curiouser and curiouser. :)



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