I enjoy the more obscure an original ones .... I think many of these expressions were replacements for cursing and the sacreligous ..... I liked my dads "son of a sea cook" and my grandfathers "Damn Sam Cuningham" ....
Urine used to be used to tan animal skins, so families would all pee in a pot & then once a day it was taken & 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 couldnt even afford to buy a pot........they "didn't have a pot to piss in" & 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 an d 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.
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.
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 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! d
My Mother e-mailed me this just yesterday. Her timing seems to be pretty good :-)
Here's a sample.
In the language of American gold-prospectors to pan was to wash and agitate gravel in a pan in order to separate it from gold To pan out was to get a good result from this process; it now means to work out or result.
Pandora's box - seemingly innocuous situation but actually a profuse source of trouble to come
In Greek legend Pandora was the first mortal woman, created by Zeus to bring calamity to men. Sent as a beautiful gift to Epimetheus, but with treachery in her heart, she brought with her a great vase (popularly described as a box) filled with afflictions; when she opened the lid these escaped and spread over the earth, though Hope remained at the bottom. The original idea, therefore, was that the first woman brought misery to the earth.
Paper tiger - person (occasionally thing) outwardly powerful but in fact weak
Translation of a Chinese expression which first became generally known when it was indirectly applied to the USA as a term of abuse by the Chinese Communist leader Mao Tse-tung in 1946.
Par for the course - what one would expect; normal; average
A misuse of a golfing term that denotes the score that a good player, not an average one, should reach when going round a particular course. It enables golfers to measure their standards against an officially recognised one.
Pardon my French - excuse my foul language
The French were the enemy of Britain on and off for a thousand years or more and are even today thought of with some suspicion by many Britishers. Perhaps because of this the British have considered the French to be vulgar and rude. To say pardon my French is to say that one is about to behave as a Frenchman is purported to do, i.e. one is about to say something vulgar.
Parkinson's law - work expands to fill the time available
A facetious law of economics formulated by the English historian C. Northcote Parkinson in an essay in The Economist (1957), a humorous but deadpan study of public and business administration based partly on his experience as a staff officer in WWII. An important corollary of this law is that 'subordinates multiply at a fixed rate regardless of the amount of work produced' and it is this notion of ever-increasing bureaucracy that is now normally in people's minds when they refer to Parkinson's law.