This is rather long but interesting I think.
They used to use urine to tan animal skins, so families used to 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 couldn’t even afford to buy a pot, they “didn’t have a pot to piss in” and were the lowest of the low.
Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May, and they still smelled pretty good byJune. 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.
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 whiskey. 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…
Those are so interesting. Thank you Trish. I knew about the beel thing but the pissing was something I never heard. thanks.
Of course. I used to know to do that.
As far as I know they're true. We'll have ask one of the older guys if that's what happened back then.
In the middle ages there were few baths and only one tub. People got to use the tub in order of seniority in the household. Dad, boys first, mom girls... babies last. By the time the little kids got in the water it was pretty dirty - and therefore they had to pay attention and make sure not to toss the kid out with the dirty water - or lose the baby in the water.
In modern times - it means, "don't go overboard" pay attention to what you are doing and salvage what you can of a questionable situation. Rather then overreact and "throw the baby out with the bathwater"... :)
5 years ago
One might reasonably wonder how it is that people could even imagine that someone could throw the baby out with the bathwater by accident. The explanation for this term lies in the fact that Europeans bathed infrequently after the Middle Ages, for a variety of reasons; many people, for example, thought that bathing was unhealthy, and avoided it except on rare occasions. When people did bathe, they filled a large tub with water heated on the stove, and the whole family took turns using it, with the oldest going first.
By the time young children reached the bathtub, the water would be tepid, and rather dirty, thanks to the previous bathers. One can easily imagine an infant slipping into the water and becoming obscured by the muddy gloom, although since someone had to be present to bathe the infant, it is unlikely that the baby would have slipped entirely below the surface, or that someone would have dumped the baby out when emptying the tub, since most people keep track of the location of their babies. The image of tossing the cloudy contents of the bath without pulling the baby out first would have been compelling to Europeans living in this era, even if it never actually happened.
I'm glad I was born when I was, a whole year without a bath? Not my idea of how to live.
It must have been an improvement over bathing in the local stream in the cold.
Uh, oh, a lot of disinformation there. In Celtic lands the marriages were in the autumn so the children would be born in the spring and survive. I am a member of a 5th century Celtic Reconstruationist Druid group that researches this stuff in the ancient manuscripts. The Dean teaches Irish Gaelic so she reads the old texts.
As to urine for tanning - yes. The Alaska natives used it - everyone used it. In looking up the "piss poor" stuff it appears that it's a tongue in cheek thing (see link)
The actual reason for canopied beds (assuming you didn't just sleep in the rushes on the floor) was to keep the spiders and whatnot from falling on you. In some homes the mother and father slept in a closed bed during the winter. The rush mattress there was not changed during the winter.
The Norse were extremely clean and bathed all the time. The English were filthy. The Irish were more like the Norse, but they didn't have the geothermal springs the Norse did to get clean in.
This kind of trivia is always interesting - usually not true if one digs very far, though. The cats and dogs thing is probably a Norse reference. Cats and dogs never lived on the roof. Link 2.
Joke archives refer to the lead cups used to drink whiskey and ale, and so on and so forth.