When I was kid in middle school, we had been given a very interesting piece of paper. It was a list with different sayings and how they had come to be, most of which were created back in the Middle Ages. I just dug it up and, as I’m looking over it, have realized once again, how funny they are. So, read ahead if you’re bored enough …
In the medieval times people took baths once a year. Gross. Even more gross, was that everyone in the family had to share the bathtub. I suppose they couldn’t do much about that, though, seeing as they had no running water way back when. Anyway, the father got to bathe first, then the mother, then the children, and the last was the baby, hence, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.” Personally, I would have had the little kids bathe first rather than have the big stinky man make all the bath water nasty for everyone else.
Also back in the day, people used to get drunk at taverns and then pass out on the sidewalks and in back alleys-hey, that still sometimes happens! If a guy was still passed out the next day, well, let’s just say I wouldn’t want to be him, because people at that time obviously didn’t know about testing the heartbeat or realizing that he was breathing, and so they would drag him off to the graveyard. There, many people who were presumed “dead”-but who were merely blacked out from a night’s worth of too much alcohol and bad memories-were awaiting a horrible fate, one that involved them getting buried alive.
Later, when there wasn’t enough room for more dead people, the graves were unburied to burn the bodies or to bring old bones back to families to make room for newly deceased. As they were digging up old bodies, the townspeople realized that some of the men must have been alive, what with all the scratch marks etched into the wood of the coffin itself. So, instead of just checking the drunk guy’s pulse like a normal person would do, someone came up with an idea that, whenever they buried “dead” people, they would first tie a string around their wrist, which led up through the earth onto a wooden pole where a bell hung. This way, when the drunk guy finally came to, he would start to move, and the string would ring the bell and the graves keeper would hear it in time to dig him up. And wallah! We’ve got, “Saved by the bell.“
Again, long ago, back when “all the kings horses and all the kings men” were still around, people lived in houses that, today’s Home Inspection companies would frown upon, usually thatched together and made of straw and hay. The best place to get warm if you’re a chilly cat or dog, was literally up in the ceiling and roof, which on stormy nights, could get pretty slick and therefore dangerous. I’ll let you do the math with “It’s raining cats and dogs.”
Most people’s houses consisted of a dirt floor, and anyone who could afford anything better, was considered rich. That’s how we get, “Dirt poor.”
When cooking, people didn’t get to eat meat much. Usually it was old vegetables, but occasionally they could find a way to get pork, and here comes, “Bring home the bacon.” Also, most families ate from a pot that they had held over a fire or stove, that would cook their veggies-and sometimes meat-during the day, and at night they would let it cool, still hanging there. The next morning they would wake up and throw more veggies into their leftovers, and heat it up for breakfast. This would go on day and night, constantly adding new food to old food. And that’s, “Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old.”
“The Origin of Famous Sayings” (www.socyberty.com)