Glawe's Outlook

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The baby & the bathwater

Ready for some smiles and some education? A recent e-mail provided some facts about the 1500s:

* Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May, and still smelled pretty good by June. Brides carried a bouquet of flowers in case there was any body odor to mask. Hence the custom today.

* The man of the house had the privilege of the clean water at bath time, 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 couldn't see through 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. Cats and other small animals (mice, bugs) lived in the roof to keep warm. When it rained it became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip and fall. 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 anything better. Hence the saying, "Dirt poor."

* 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. Leftovers sat 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."

* England started running out of places to bury people. So they would dig up coffins and reuse the grave. When reopening these coffins, some 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."

Now, whoever said History was boring!

* Reach the columnist at lglawe@stormlakepilottribune.