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The Validity Of Old Sayings As Per Email

Have you ever wondered how some of those old sayings ever came about, you know, things like throwing the ‘baby out with the bathwater‘, or perhaps even being ‘piss poor‘ or ‘it’s raining cats and dogs‘? Well, I got this email today, and while I can’t vouch for it’s validity I thought you guys would perhaps find it of some interest.

There is an old Hotel/Pub in Marble Arch, London which used to have gallows adjacent. Prisoners were taken to the gallows (after a fair trial of course) to be hung. The horse drawn dray, carting the prisoner was accompanied by an armed guard, who would stop the dray outside the pub and ask the prisoner if he would like ”ONE LAST DRINK”.

If he said YES it was referred to as “ONE FOR THE ROAD”

If he declined, that prisoner was “ON THE WAGON”

So there you go. More bleeding history.

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” & 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 odour. 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. (Getting quite an education, aren’t you?)

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 talking 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 ! ! !

So, what do you reckon, how much of it has some truth to it and how much was complete and unadulterated crap?

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Peter Pelliccia

I'm an Aussie blogger who loves to blog and share everything that I've learned on my blogging journey, including blogging tips and ways to blog for money. I am also trying to make my way on YouTube. You can follow my progress by subscribing to My Bonzer Channel.

This Post Has 55 Comments

  1. Personally I’d like to believe that all these are true. I find the May bath and the ‘bouquet of flowers‘ particularly very amusing.

    I remember having read some piece a long time ago about an unexplainable actual raining of cats and dogs ( :) ) which supposedly is the origin of this saying.

    Whether all these old sayings are true or not, it makes for a very interesting read though.

    1. I’ve actually linked to a Wikipedia article at the beginning of the post James that you may find interesting.

      1. Hey, so animals falling from the sky is really not a far-fetched idea. But ‘raining fish and frogs’ would have been more believable than ‘raining cats and dogs’. :)

  2. I am willing to buy the whole lot. Completely logical and makes total sense to me.

  3. I think some of these where pretty self explaining but others where pretty cool to find out. Why that I find that is intersting when people refer to balls out. In the old days refer to steam machines that had a device on them that spun around that had two balls on it. the further the moved out the faster the rpms of the machine was.


  4. Twitter:
    I must admit that I still don’t get the “one for the road” and “on the wagon” – I get why it comes from (as specified in the email), but not WHY they decided to refer to it like that :)

    1. Well Klaus usually when at a pub a person would say “one for the road” as an excuse to have one last drink before they leave for home. In this case it was the prisoners last drink before going to the gallows, which I supposed happened to be down the road.

      As to ‘On the wagon’ that usually refers to someone who used to drink a lot and is now abstaining.
      Sire recently posted…Reviewing MyLikes As An AdvertiserMy Profile

      1. There were many gallows in London, so unless every person about to be hung was offered a drink, this seems unlikely. “On the wagon” is also known as “on the water wagon” and another explanation can be found here (along with the explanation in the post). And here’s One for the Road.

        And here’s Raining Cats and Dogs

        So the lesson to take away from this is that the “Life in the 1500s” email is potentially full of bullshit!!

        1. I don’t Know Ray, ever prisoner is offered a last meal, and London being a city of piss pots, :innocent1_tb: :laugh_tb: why not offer them a last drink. Heck it may even soften the blow some.

          Thanks for those links mate, I’m sure everyone will appreciate them.

          1. Most of these sound reasonable and it is entirely possible that some or all of them are nearly real.

            BTW, comment/email plugin is now live on my site as per your request!

  5. I always run these types of chain mails through snopes prior to thinking much about them. The quality of information you get from fwd mails is extremely poor, maybe 5% of them are true.

    1. Sure some a lot of the emails one receives are full of crap, but then again there are a whole lot that are very interesting and I’ve used many of them as part of a post and almost all of those posts proved to be quite popular.
      Sire recently posted…Important Link Love That You Should All ReadMy Profile

  6. Hi Sire,

    There may be some truth to some of the explanations of the sayings but I’m leaning towards thinking that they were largely made up by the writer of the email or put together by several people over time and collected by the writer.

    Things are usually more complicated and not everything has an explanation unless it is conveniently made up like in fairy tales.

    It is a clever write up though and some people may completely believe everything it says. It is more convenient for some people to believe things rather than face the nagging feeling of not knowing.

    That is also very likely the reason why so many believe in conspiracies.

    Vance
    Vance recently posted…Internet Marketing Tool- Should You Get Apple Mac Or Windows PC My Profile

    1. Yep, it was clever and I think that perhaps some of the sayings may be valid, but either way you look at it I think it was an interesting read which is why I wanted to share it with you guys.
      Sire recently posted…Blog Save The Akismet- Long Live The AkismetMy Profile

      1. Hi Sire,

        It was definitely very interesting and I’m glad you shared it with everybody here.

        I know of legends that were also cleverly made up and even though I realized it as I was growing up they still seem kind of real unless I focus on what they are saying.

        I guess there is a lot of creativity that goes into making up such stories and they are made in such a way that one is tempted to believe them or at least ponder about their validity.

        Vance
        Vance recently posted…Learn How To Build Your Email List Using Online GiveawaysMy Profile

        1. Yep, and I reckon some of it is just to fool people and the person who thought it up is probably laughing at how gullible some people can be. Heck, I’ve even written some of those as posts, but I would never laugh at anyone. :tongue_rolleye_ee:
          Sire recently posted…Blog Save The Akismet- Long Live The AkismetMy Profile

          1. I really hate to be that guy and ruin the fun.. http://www.snopes.com/language/phrases/wagon.asp

            But still, I did find this whole post very interesting and it is very clever. It also makes me want to try my hand at starting a viral email, haha.

            1. Hahah ouch! I guess I’m a little rusty, I’ll try to be on top of my game next time!

            2. I’m afraid Anne beat you to it Ryan. You’re going to have to lift your game if you want to get in first around here mate. :laugh_tb:

  7. I’ve heard most of these before. I would take it all with a grain of salt. Sounds good, but who knows what’s real or not. History books are supposed to be accurate, but are clouded by the writers’ perspective. Same would have to be said for these sayings, I suppose.
    Anne Bender recently posted…Unusual Kitchen Gadget – Any ThoughtsMy Profile

  8. Very interesting! I actually don’t know which is true, but it’s a great read nonetheless.

    1. Glad you enjoyed it Julius

  9. I love reading word etymologies. Whether all these are true or not, I don’t know – but they certainly are feasible. I especially like the wake (which makes perfect sense!) and the threshold – I can’t think of any other reason to call it that. Very interesting post!

  10. I’m guessing that not much of it is true and it is nothing more than a hoax chain letter. Interesting though. It makes you wonder who comes up with these things.

        1. That proves it was a hoax and not a chain letter. Also I never said it was true, just that it made for an interesting read.

          Anyway I liked the myth better than the reality. :tongue_laugh_ee:
          Sire recently posted…Sharing Something Unique About Where You LiveMy Profile

          1. I never said that you said it was true nor did I say the link proved that it was a chain letter.

            Chain letter…one of those dumb or silly things one person forwards to the next… all the same lol. :-P

            1. Ok ;-)

            2. Not to worry Rose, just chalk it off to the difference between Venus and Mars. :doh_tb: :tongue_laugh_ee:

  11. Wow. That’s a crazy email. Though to go back to the phrase “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater” is in reference to back in the 1500s when a large metal tub was filled with water. The head male of the house would usually bathe first, then the sons, and then any other male guest in the house. Afterward the women and children would use the bath water and last were the babies. Because bathing was only done once a year back then, the water was usually so dirty by the time that the babies were bathed it would have been easy to accidentally lose one of the little ones in the bath water. Though, if you want to get right down to the meaning of the phrase, it simply means not to throw out the good with the bad.

    I’m personally a big fan of these kinds of phrases. I especially love slang from the 1920s.


  12. Twitter:
    I’m going with the idea that probably 50% of them are false. Still, that’s not so bad; gives us plenty to talk about.


      1. Twitter:
        I was betting you’ve been busy with work.

        1. Yeah, work, end of the financial year and some other stuff. Still, at least I have a job.


          1. Twitter:
            I thought you had a business. :dunce_tb:

  13. It’s interesting seeing how much a culture changes, and vestiges of old practices remain in language. It shows why ancient texts are very difficult to comprehend for modern readers, as old phrases persist in the language as idioms and their meanings and contexts have long since faded away.

    That said, “throwing the baby with the bathwater” sounds like a very real possibility with more difficulty in filling tubs of water (no plumbing and all). Some countries still have families bathe in the same tub of water to conserve how much is used, just not to the extent where water becomes murky.


  14. Twitter:
    Then you’re really working hard lately; do it until you drop, my man. BTW, 2 errors on this one, not including what’s in the gray since I figure you just copied and pasted that. :wink_ee:

    1. Always work hard Mitch, just like my old man taught me.


      1. Twitter:
        I love the stuff we learn from our parents; if only we’d known they were so wise when we were much younger, eh? :cool_wp:

        1. Yeah reckon we would have learned a whole lot more and wouldn’t have to suffer the ‘I told you so”

    1. Yeah, I get a bit like that myself sometimes. Perhaps it’s because I’m getting a little older myself?

  15. Ah,very interesting. Some people really love to forge “old sayings” when composing a mail. How to verify its validity? I would like to search it through Google.

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