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Rated: E · Other · Cultural · #1491811
What say we sit around and - chew the fat?
A lot of people hearken to the phrase, "back in the good old days," insinuating that life way back when was much better than it is today.  If they studied their history a little closer, they may have second thoughts about just how great it was back when.

Even leaving out the horrors of primitive medicine, plagues, little or no justice, the inquisition, slavery, and a host of others, every day life was certainly not that grand.  In the middle ages for example:

Most people got married in June because they took their 'yearly' bath in May and were still smelling pretty ripe by June.  However, since they were starting to smell the bride carried a bouquet of flowers to - hide the body odor.

Baths were 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."

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 had very little meat.  They would eat the stew for dinner leaving the leftovers in the pot to get cold over night and then start over the next day. 

Sometimes the stew contained food 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 get some pork and would feel really special when that happened.  When company came over they would bring out some bacon and hang it up 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 their guests and all would 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 into the food.  This happened mostly with tomatoes, so they stopped eating tomatoes - for almost 400 years.

Most people didn't have pewter plates but used trenchers, which was a piece of wood with the middle scooped out like a bowl.  Trenchers were never washed, and very often 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 several 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 few 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."

Since England is so small, they ran out of places to bury their dead, so they would open the coffins and take the bones to their house and reuse the coffin.  One out of 25 coffins were found to have scratches on the inside so they realized they had been burying people alive.

So they decided they would tie a string on a dead persons wrist and lead it through a hole in the coffin, 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 if someone was, "saved by the bell," or they were, "a dead ringer."

Houses had thatched roofs with the straw piled high.  It was the only place for the small animals to get warm, so all the pets, dogs, cats, mice, rats, bugs, lived in the roof.  When it rained it became slippery, and sometime the animals would slip and fall off the roof.  Hence the saying, "it's raining cats and dogs." There was nothing to stop the other critters, bugs, and droppings, from falling on the bed, so they came up with - the canopy bed.

The floor was made of dirt, only the wealthy had floors.  Hence the saying, "dirt poor."  Many of the wealthy had slate floors that became slippery when wet.  So they spread thresh on the floor to keep their footing.  As the winter wore on, thresh built up until when you opened the door it would spill out.  To stop it, they put a piece of wood in the entry way, hence, "a thresh hold."

In English pubs, ale is ordered by pints and quarts.  So, in merry old England, when customers got unruly, the bartender would yell at them to "mind their own pints and quarts and settle down."  This is where we got the phrase, "Mind your P's and Q's.

Many years ago in olde England, pub frequenters had a whistle baked into the handle or rim of their cherished cups.  When they needed a refill, they used the whistle to get some quick service.  "Wet your whistle," is the phrase inspired by this odd practice.

In Shakespeare's time, mattresses were secured to bed frames with ropes.  When you pulled on the rope the mattress tightened, making the bed firmer to sleep on.  "This is where the phrase, "good night, sleep tight," originated.

The phrase "rule of thumb," is derived from an old English law which stated that you couldn't beat your wife with anything wider than your thumb.

I love trivia. This was gleaned from many sources. Hope you enjoy it!

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