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A collection of fun colloquialisms from 1500s


Now for some fun … The accompanying fun facts give us an intriguing, albeit stimulating insight into our past and current culture, and clarify the beginning of some of our expressions and behaviors.

We came across these fun colloquialisms during the medieval and during the pre-Renaissance period of English and European history. These are from the 1500 and we thought that the kids will love it. The colloquialisms are [between brackets]. Go ahead, check out how they originated and let us know what you feel.

Britain, as we know is old and small, and they started running out of places to bury people. Undertakers would dig up coffins so that they could re-use the graves. While reopening these coffins, undertakers noted that one in about twenty five coffins were found to have abrasions or scratch marks on the roof of the coffin. It was then they came to understand that they had been burying people alive! Therefore, they tied a string on the dead person's wrist and connected it to a bell on top of the ground. Guards were asked to keep watch in cemeteries to check whether any bells actually rang. Thus, on the graveyard shift they would come to know that someone was [saved by the bell] or whether he was a [dead ringer].

Lead mugs were generally used to drink beer and other strong drinks. The mixture of the ale with the lead would typically knock the people out for many days. People, who were drunk and found lying on the side of the street, would be taken for dead, and made ready for burial. They were laid out on a large table for an eat and drink, and then kept watch, in the event that they would wake up. Thus the custom of holding a [wake].

Houses had thatched rooftops with thick straw heaped high, with no wood underneath. It was the main spot for animals and other creatures to get warm, so every one of the pets, pooches, cats, and other little animals such as rats, mice, rats, and bugs lived on the rooftop. When it drizzled it became slippery, and occasionally some of the animals would slip and tumble through the rooftop. Thus the colloquialism, [It is raining cats and dogs].

There was nothing to prevent animals from falling into the house. This caused a genuine issue in the bedroom where bugs and other faecal droppings could mess up a clean bed. Therefore, they came upon the idea to make beds with large posts and hung a sheet over the top. This partly addressed the problem, and hence those delightful big four-poster beds with canopies.

A great many people tied the knot in June, as they took their yearly bath in May and still smelled pretty good by June. However, once they started to smell, and people were beginning to notice, brides carried flowers to cover up any smell, particularly the body odor.

Baths in those days consisted of a huge bathtub filled with hot water. The man of the house had the privilege to bathe first in the clean water, and the rest who followed all had to make do with the used soap and water. Considering the fact, that a bath was rare, the water became dirty very fast. After the man of the house had finished, it was the turn of the children and any other men in the house, followed by the ladies. By the time, the youngsters or the babies had their bath, the water was so grimy that one could get lost in it. Hence the colloquialism, [Don't throw the baby out with the bath water].

Beds were made up of frames with ropes that hung from side to side on which a mattress was supported. The ropes were then bent with a wooden key to strengthen them to support the large mattress. Hence the phrase, [sleep tight].

The mattresses were mostly made from leaves and little brush, which were likely to hold fleas, bugs, and ticks. Therefore, the colloquialism, [Don’t let the bed bugs bite].

Most people did not have alloy plates, but instead had trenchers, which was a piece of wood with the center scooped out, and looked more like a bowl. Trenchers were never washed and plenty of times, worms got into the wood. When consuming food off wormy trenchers, they sometimes got [trench mouth].

Bread was also divided according to social standing. The staff usually got the burnt bottom of the loaf, while the family got the center, and guests or visitors got the highest, or the [upper crust].

Those days, they usually barbecued in the kitchen using a huge kettle that hung over the hearth. After lighting the hearth, vegetables (as they did not get much meat those days), were consistently added to the stew that was in the pot. They usually had the stew for dinner, and the remaining was left in the pot to get chilly overnight. Then they were again heated the next day along with the leftovers and this routine went on for about a month with the leftovers consistently remaining in the pot. Subsequently the rhyme, [Peas dish hot, peas dish cold, peas dish in the pot nine days old].

Occasionally a family would acquire pork and would feel truly special when that happened. When they had guests or company over, they would take out some bacon and hang it from the rafters to show off. It was just an indication of riches that a man [could bring home the bacon]. They would shave of a piece of the bacon and give it to their guests and would all sit around and [chew the fat].

Those who were wealthy, had plates made from alloy. Food with a high acid content caused lead to drain onto the food. As this happened frequently with tomatoes, they quit consuming tomatoes for nearly four hundred years.

Use the above facts and colloquialisms from the 1500's to educate, and show off to your mates, and keep them off your back.


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