(In cleaning out some of my school files, I came across these common phrases and their sources. Enjoy!!!)
Here are some facts about the 1500s:
People married in June. Most had taken their yearly bath in May, so the bride crarried a bouquet of flowers to cover their body odors. Hence, the bridal bouquet became a tradition at weddings.
A family used the same tub of water for baths. The man of the house received the benefit of clean water for his ablutions. His efforts were followed by all the other men/boys in the family. Women came next. Children were followed by babies. By then, the water was so dirty that one might hear “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. “
“Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old.” A vegetable stew served today would remain on the fire tonight. People ate their fill, and leftovers remained in the pot to get cold overnight. The next day, the fire was relit and new vegetables were added. Some pots held remnants from several days’ efforts.
Having meat to share was a sign of wealth. Families would, literally, hang bacon to dry where visitors might see it. “Bringing home the bacon” was a sign of importance. People would cut off some of the dried meat to share with their guests. They would “sit around and chew the fat. “
Pewter plates were also a sign of wealth. Unfortunately, high acid foods (especially, tomatoes) caused some of the lead in the plates to seem into the food = lead poisoning. For many centuries, people thought it was the tomatoes that were poisonous.
Likewise, lead cups were used for ale and whisky. Imbibers often spent a couple of days passed out from the combination. If they couldn’t be brought around, they might find themselves laid out for burial. Hence, “holding a wake” to see if the person would awaken became commonplace.
Houses had thatched roofs, each with thick straw piled high. Unfortunately, no wood was underneath the straw. Often, small animals found warmth in the thatch. If it rained, the straw became slippery. Therefore, we have the saying “It’s raining cats and dogs.”
The animals and “bugs” could also drop unexpectingly on one’s head. Therefore, “canopy” beds became essential. A bed with big posts and a sheet hung over the top afforded some protection from the barrage of “visitors. “
“Dirt poor” came about from the floors in poor households. The rich had slate floors, which became slippery when wet. People, therefore, placed thresh on the floor to maintain their footing. As the winter wore on, more thresh was added. When people opened the door, the thresh would slip out. To prevent this from happening, they placed a piece of wood over the entranceway as a “thresh hold.”
(I first came across these facts in an article from Senior Sun in April 2006. I no longer have the original article to know the source of the facts from the news page.)