True-ish written facts about England in the 1500s…

It’s hard to know where humor starts and history leaves off here, but some of the following are ridiculous enough to be true. Click on the links to see what others have said about these popular sayings…

What did bringing home the bacon mean in the 15th century?

Do you “bring home the bacon” and then “chew the fat?”

Barely bathing
Most people got married in June, because they took their yearly bath in May and still smelled pretty good by June. However, they were starting to smell, so brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the body odour. Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water. The man of the house had the privilege of the nice clean water, next all the other sons and men, next 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.

Lumpy rain
Houses had thatched roofs (thick straw) piled high, with no wood beneath. It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the dogs, 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.

Keeping the bugs out
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 really mess up a bed. A bed with big posts and a sheet hung over the top afforded some protection; hence canopy beds came into existence.

Taking to the floor
The floor was dirt and 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 the floor to help keep their footing. As the winter wore on, they kept adding more thresh until when you opened the door it would all start slipping outside. A piece of wood was placed in the entryway; hence a “threshold.

Stew for 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 the 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.”

Porky pleasure
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 and “chew the fat.”

Lead-ing folks astray
Those with money had plates made of pewter. Food with a high acid content caused some of the lead to leak onto the food, causing lead poisoning and death. This happened most often with tomatoes, so for the next 400 years or so, tomatoes were considered poisonous.

Crusty crumbs
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.”

Dead drunk
Lead cups were used to drink ale or whiskey. The combination would sometimes knock them 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.

Dying by the bell
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 thought they would tie a string on the wrist of the corpse, lead it through the coffin, 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, er, real truth…what do you think?

Click through to these definitions to get either confirmation or denial of their authenticity! And please share your own 16th century favorites…

 

 

 

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