Post by Joanna on Dec 6, 2016 20:17:14 GMT -5
How 'Piss Poor' and Other Popular Maxims Originated
We can learn a lot about ourselves by looking to the past. History not only provides us a nostalgic glimpse at how things used to be, but its lessons can still teach us today. Many of us fondly refer to “the good old days” when times were pure and life was simple.
Urine. People used to use urine to tan animal hides, so family members would all pee in a pot that was taken and sold to the local tannery. If your family had to sell pee to survive, you were “piss poor.” But even worse were those people who couldn’t afford a pot, that is, they “didn’t have a pot to piss in” and were considered the lowest of the low.
‘Things’ in the roof. When houses had thatched roofs with thick straw-piled high and no wood underneath, it was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the cats and other small animals (mice, bugs, etc.) lived in the roof and dogs often climbed onto the roof to hunt vermin and chase cats. When it rained, the dried grass 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 keep things from falling from the thatched roof into the house and this posed a problem in the bedroom where bugs and other droppings could fall onto the bed at night. A bed with tall posts and a sheet hung over the top afforded some protection – this is how canopy beds came into existence.
Poverty. The floor was dirt. Only the rich had wood or stone foundations. Hence the term, “dirt poor.”
Threshold. The upper classes often had slate floors that would get slippery in the winter when wet, so they spread thresh (straw) on the floor to help keep their footing. As the winter wore on, they added more thresh and before long, when the door was opened, the thresh would blow or be carried outside. Thus, a piece of wood or stone was placed in the entrance-way, i.e., the “threshold.”
Peas porridge. In times past, people cooked by hanging a big kettle over the fire. Every day, the fire was lit and food items, often dried peas, were added to the pot. After eating, whatever was left over remained in the pot and this sometimes went on for days. Hence, the rhyme: “Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old.”
Bacon. Families lucky enough to have pork considered themselves special and slabs of bacon were hung to keep away rats and roaches. It was considered a sign of wealth if a man could “bring home the bacon.” When company came, people would often cut off a little of the smoked bacon and all would sit around and visit and “chew the fat.”
Tomatoes. The more affluent had plates and cups made of pewter and foods and drinks with high acid contents reacted with the pewter and caused lead poisoning. This happened often with tomatoes, so for 400 years or so, tomatoes were considered poisonous.
Bread was divided according to status. Workers got the hard, often burnt, bottom of the loaf, the family got the middle and guests got the top, or the “upper crust.”
The dead. When lead cups were used for ale or whiskey, the combination would sometimes knock those who imbibed out for a day or so. If the person passed out somewhere, those who found him would often assume he was dead and the body would be prepared for burial. The corpse was laid out, usually on a table, for a couple days and the family and visitors would gather round and eat and drink while waiting to see of the dead man (or woman) would awaken. Hence the custom of holding a “wake.”
In some locations, people began running out of places to bury the dead, so coffins were disinterred and the bones taken to a bone-house so that the grave could be reused. When opening the coffins, approximately one out of 25 were discovered to have scratch marks on the inside and people realized loved ones were sometimes buried alive. So they began tying a string to the wrist of the corpse attached to a bell. For a few days, someone had to sit in the graveyard at all times to listen for the bell – the “graveyard shift.” If someone was “saved by the bell,” he was considered a “dead ringer.”
Source: Healthy & DIY Tips.