Bob Haase’s Another Can Of Worms

The Origin of Old Sayings

I recently received a list of old sayings with the explanation of where each of the sayings originated from.   I guess I was like many other people that never took the time to learn the history of  sayings and when I read the explanations I wondered if they were actually true.  I took the time to research the validity of the information and found that these were supposedly how the sayings got started.   I thought this was interesting so I will share a few of them.

In the 1500’s most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May and they still smelled pretty good by June.  Since some were starting to smell, brides carried  a bouquet of flowers to hide the body odor.  That is how the custom of the bride carrying a bouquet of flowers got started.

Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water.  The man of the house had the privilege of taking the bath first in the clean water followed by the other son’s or men in the home.  Next came the women of the house followed by the children and finally the  babies.  When everyone was finished taking a bath in the same water it could be pretty dirty and hence came the saying “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water”.

The early houses had thatched roofs made of thick straw with no wood underneath.  It was the only place for animals to get warm so cats, and other small animals such as mice an bugs lived in the thatched roofs.  When it rained it became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip and fall off of the roof and even into the house.  That is where the saying “It’s raining cats and dogs” came from.

Many times the homes had dirt floors and only the wealthy had slate or wood floors.  That is where we got the saying “Dirt Poor”.  The wealthy had slate floors that got slippery in the winter when wet so they spread straw in the floor the help keep their footing.  As the winter progressed more and more thresh was added until it would start falling out when you opened the door. That is where we got the name  “thresh hold”.

Sometimes the people were able to obtain bacon which made them special and they liked to show off when visitors came by hanging up their bacon.  It was a sign of wealth if a man could “Bring Home the Bacon”.

Lead cups were used to drink whisky or ale and this combination sometimes knocked them out for a couple days.  People  walking by on the road would think they were dead and prepare them for burial.  The bodies were laid out on the kitchen table for a couple days and friends and family would gather around and eat and drink and wait to see if they would wake up.  That is where we got the saying “Holding a Wake”.

In England they started running out of places to bury people so they would dig up coffins and take the bones to the bone house and re-use the grave.  This may have been where the got the saying “Going to the bone yard”.  When they re-opened the coffins some of them had scratch marks on the inside and they realized that some of these people were buried alive.  They started tying a string to the wrist of the corpse and ran it through a hole in the coffin and through the ground and tied it to a bell.  Someone would sit out in the graveyard all night “The Graveyard Shift” and listen for the bell to ring if they were alive and that is how some people got “Saved by the Bell” and others were just a “Dead Ringer”.

The next time you hear an old saying you might just want to find out where that saying came from!

Bob Haase is the host of “Outdoors Thursday” heard Thursday mornings at 9:10 a.m. on News-Talk 1450 KFIZ.