Who knows where these things come from?! I have no idea where this one originated, but this was one of those emails making the rounds that I found truly fun. Some I’d heard before and some were new to me, as they might be to you. Even if they’re not true, they’re interesting, and plausible enough to think about. The next time you’re washing your hands and complain because the water temperature isn’t just how you like it (as I did a few days ago at my daughter’s house washing the dishes, think about how things used to be according to these so called facts about the 1500s:
Urine was once used to tan animal skins, so families all peed in a pot. Once a day it was taken to be sold to the tannery. If your family had to do this in order to survive you were piss poor.
But worse than that were the really poor folk who couldn’t even afford a pee pot. They, poor things, didn’t have a pot to piss in and were the lowest of the low.
Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May, and still smelled pretty good by June. Since they were starting to smell, however, brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the body odor, hence the custom today of carrying a bouquet when getting married.
Baths were taken in 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. Hence the saying, don’t throw the baby out with the Bath water!
Houses had thatched roofs with thick straw piled high with no wood underneath. It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the cats and other small animals like mice and bugs lived in the roof. When it rained the thatch 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 mess up your nice clean bed. A bed with big posts at each corner with a sheet hung over the top afforded some protection. That’s how canopy beds came into existence.
The floor was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt. Hence the saying, dirt poor. The wealthy had slate floors that would get slippery in the winter when wet, so they spread thresh (straw) on floor to help keep their footing. As the winter wore on, they added more thresh until, when you opened the door, it would all start slipping outside. A piece of wood placed in the entrance-way thus became a thresh hold.
In those old days, cook was done in the kitchen with a big kettle hung over the fireplace. Every day they lit the fire and added things to the pot. They ate mostly vegetables and did not 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 stew had food in it that had been there for quite a while. Hence the rhyme: Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old.
Sometimes pork could be obtained, 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 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 high acid content caused some of the lead to leach onto the food, causing lead poisoning death. This happened most often with tomatoes, so for the next 400 years or so, tomatoes were considered poisonous.
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 whisky. 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.
England is old and small and the local folks started running out of places to bury people. So they would dig up coffins and would take the bones to a bone-house, and reuse the grave. When reopening these coffins, 1 out of 25 coffins were found to have scratch marks on the inside and they realized they had been burying people alive. So they would tie a string on the wrist of the corpse, lead it through the coffin and up through the ground and tie it to a bell. Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night (the graveyard shift) to listen for the bell; thus, someone could be literally be saved by the bell or considered a dead ringer.
And that’s the truth . . . ! At least according to whoever wrote the original of this email. Now, do you still think history is boring?