Pat Shingleton: "Old Phrases..."
We recently recognized why bride’s carried a bouquet at a wedding to not throwing out the baby with the bath water. When it was raining cats and dogs in the 1500s the animals were actually falling from thatched roofs. Another tidbit from that era was the floor of dirt. Only the wealthy had slate floors and during wet weather a layer of thresh was placed on the slippery surface for better footing. During the winter months, piles of thresh would cover the doorway and once opened, the thresh would spill onto the entryway, creating the word “threshold.” In the kitchen a large kettle hung over the fire with the daily task of stoking the fire and adding vegetables to the pot. Leftovers would chill overnight and the process would continue leading to the rhyme, "Peas’ porridge hot, peas’ porridge cold, peas’ porridge in the pot nine days old." With limited access to food stuffs, a slab of bacon became a sign of wealth and the recognition that a man "could really bring home the bacon" and sharing the bacon led to the guests "chewing the fat." Only the well-to-do had plates of pewter while the poor used wooden bowls called trenchers. The trenchers were rarely washed and bacteria and worms got into the wood causing cases of "trench mouth" for those that used the bowls. Finally, the English ran out of places to bury people and would re-use graves. Some relocated coffins displayed inside scratch marks for those buried alive. A string was tied on the wrist of a dead person and re-connnected to an above-ground bell.. Someone on the "graveyard shift" would identify a "dead ringer" or someone "saved by the bell."