A student sent me the piece below. It's not
documented but it has a ring of truth about it.


Dr. Peter C. Montgomery
Dept. of English
Camosun College
3100 Foul Bay Rd.
Victoria, BC CANADA V8P 5J2
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-----Original Message-----
From: Terri Evans [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
Sent: Thursday, April 17, 2003 12:02 PM
To: Peter Montgomery
Subject: intersting stuff!

Hey Peter,
I thought you might find this interesting, I did!

Not so boring history!
Next time you are washing your hands and complain because the water
temperature isn't just how you like it, think about how things used to
be...Here are some facts about the 1500s:
Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May
and still smelled pretty good by June. However, they were starting to smell,

so brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the body odor. Hence the
custom today of carrying a bouquet when getting married.
Baths consisted of 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 - thick straw-piled high, with no woodunderneath.
It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the dogs, cats and
other small animals (mice, 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. Hence, a bed with big posts and 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 the
floor to help keep their footing. As the winter wore on, they kept adding
more thresh until when you opened the door it would all start slipping
outside. A piece of wood was placed in the entranceway - hence: a "thresh
In those old days, they cooked in the kitchen with a big kettle that always
hung over the fire. 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 lefto vers in the pot to get cold overnight and then
start over the next day. Sometimes the 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 they could obtain pork, 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
contentcaused some of the lead to leach onto the food, causing lead
poisoning and 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 burntbottom of the loaf, the family got
the middle, and guests got the top, or "upper crust."
Lead cups were used to drink ale or whisky. The combination would sometimes
knock them 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 a nd 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 thought 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 "saved by the bell" or was considered a "dead
And that's the truth... (and whoever said that History was
boring)! ! ?

have a good summer!
Terri Evans