Stories of Origin: true historical fact or colorful fiction?

My wife Jennifer recently shared an e-mail with me that I must admit I am uncertain as to whether they are historical fact or colorful (and entertaining) fiction.

Either way,  I am pleased to share these “stories of origin” with you in the hope that you can shed some light on their accuracy or, even add a tale or two of your own.

NOTE: Based on the overwhelmingly unexpected popularity of this article, I will be welcoming to the Wednesday, August 18th broadcast of the PI Window on Business Show the author of Shaggy Dogs and Black Sheep (The Origins of Even More Phrases We Use Everyday)” Albert Jack.

The show airs live at 12:30 PM EST, and will also be recorded and made available on an On-Demand basis for your listening convenience.  Click on Albert’s book cover above or, use the following link to access the live broadcast “Stories of Origin: True Historical Fact or Colorful Fiction” on the Blog Talk Radio Network.

PS Take our Poll on LinkedIn at Stories of Origin: Fact or Fiction?

One for my baby, and one for the road . . .

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 the prisoner said YES, it was referred to as ONE FOR THE ROAD.  If he declined, that prisoner was ON THE WAGON!

From the 1500s – cleanliness is next to . . .

Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May, and they still smelled pretty good in June.  However, since they were starting to smell brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the body odor.  Hence the custom today of carrying a bouquet when getting married.

or babies and bath water. . .

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.  This apparently led to the saying “Don’t throw out the baby with the Bath water!”

It’s raining, it’s pouring . . .

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 all the 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.”

Bringing home the bacon?

Sometimes families 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 then cut off a little to share with guests and would sit around talking and “Chew the Fat.”

The fruit of the poisonous tree?

Those with money had plates made pewter.  Food with high acid content caused some of the lead to leach 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.

From the upper crust . . .

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.”

The ultimate bender?

Lead cups were used to drink ale or whiskey.  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.”

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