I love Google. I mean, it seems like it was just yesterday that if I wanted to know something, I would have to go down to the library. I’d have to fuss with the old lady who made you whisper everything. I’d eventually make my way down to the huge card catalog. I’d look up whatever I was after and scribble down the numbered location via the “Dewy Decimal System” and head off on my quest for information. It was hours wasted time just to get a few treasured answers. Now, in 2013, and many thanks to Google, it’s so incredibly easy. These kids now-a-days, don’t even know.
Older people like myself, need to learn something new every day just to keep the grey matter workin’. In my free time, I look up stuff all day long. I was working with a doctor today who made an offhand comment, “this guy will never pay his bill… He’s piss poor…” It made me think. First, this was a pretty crass comment coming from a surgeon. Second, that was a really strange thought. I mean, What does he mean? What’s he talking about? Where exactly did “Piss Poor” come from? So I looked it up. (after I was off duty).
Apparently, back in the good old days, they used to use urine to tan animal skins, so families used to all pee in a pot. Once it was full it was taken to town and sold to the tannery. If you had to do this to survive you were considered “Piss Poor.” But worse than that were the really, really poor folk who couldn’t even afford to buy a pot… It was said they “didn’t have a pot to piss in” and 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 more facts. This is about the 1500’s Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May, They still smelled pretty good by June. However, since they were just 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, and primary wage earner, had the privilege of the nice clean water, and therefore got the pleasure of the very first bath. Then following were all the other sons and men, then the women and finally the children. Last of all the babies were allowed to get a bath. By this time, 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!”
Back in the day, 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.”
Because it was only straw and the rafters were widely spaced, there was nothing to stop things from falling through 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 floors of these houses 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: the thresh hold.
(Trivia is a lot of fun, isn’t it?) I’m sorry if you aren’t familiar with my crazy ramblings, this is just how my ADD works. I start out with a simple inquiry, looking up some trivia about the meaning of “Piss Poor” and the next thing I know, I suddenly realize that two hours have magically gone by and I’m working on something very different, like burying a person alive… accidentally. Crazy isn’t it?
Anyhow, 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 didn’t 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 lucky enough to obtain pork. This 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 even cut off a little piece to share with guests. The family 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 would 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 drinkers 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 “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. Thank goodness for Google. I’ve been looking stuff up for several hours and now it’s getting close to bed time. Due to my advancing age, I need my beauty sleep. Oh well, whoever said History was boring… So get out there and educate someone! Trivia can be quite fun. Just ask Alex Trebek! He used to host my favorite game show.