I always wonder about the reliability of these things, but here's one more "Where things came from and how they got to be the way they are" essay. Amusing and also internally consistent!
Life in the 1500s: (or "The Good Old Days")
Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May and were still smelling relatively good by June. However, they were starting to smell, so brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide their
body odor. Baths equaled a big tub filled with hot water. The man of the house had the
privilege of the nice clean water, then all the sons and other 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. 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. It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the pets...dogs, cats and other small animals, mice, rats, 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."
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 your nice clean bed. So, they found if they made beds with big posts and hung a sheet over the top, it addressed that problem. Hence those beautiful 4 poster beds with canopies.
The floor was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt, hence the saying "dirt poor". The wealthy had slate floors which would get slippery in the winter when wet. So they spread thresh on the floor to
help keep their footing. As the winter wore on they kept adding more thresh until when the door was opened, it would all start slipping outside. A piece of wood was
placed at the entry way, hence a "thresh hold".
The cooking was done in the kitchen in a big kettle hanging over the fire.
Every day they lit the fire and added things to the pot. They mostly ate vegetables and didn't 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 in there for a month. Hence the rhyme: "peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old."
Sometimes they could obtain pork and would feel really special when this happened. When company came over, they would bring out some bacon and hang it to show it off. It was a sign of wealth that a man could really "bring
home the bacon." They would cut off a little to share with guests and would all sit around and "chew the fat."
Those with money had plates made of pewter. Food with a high acid content caused some of the lead to leach onto the food. This happened most often with tomatoes, so they stopped eating tomatoes... for 400 years.
Most people didn't have pewter plates, but had trenchers - a piece of wood with the middle scooped out like a bowl. Trenchers were never washed, and a lot of times worms got into the wood. After eating off wormy trenchers, they would sometimes get "trench mouth."
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".
Lead cups were used to drink ale or whiskey. The combination would sometimes knock them out for a couple of days. Sometimes they would be taken for dead and would be prepared 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".
England is old and small and they started running out of places to bury people. So, they would dig up coffins, remove the bones, and re-use the grave. In reopening these coffins, many were found to have scratch marks on the inside and they realized they had been burying people alive. So they began the practice of tying string to the wrist of the body, leading it through the coffin and up through the ground, attaching it to a bell.
Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night to listen for the bell. Hence on the "graveyard shift" they would know that someone was "saved by the bell" or
he was a "dead ringer".