Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Where old sayings came from.

I all ways wondered where some of the sayings I heard growing up came from.
If the internet is not lying to me. I now know.


Did  you know the saying "God willing and the Creeks don't
rise" was in  reference  to the Creek Indians and not a body
of water?  It was written by  Benjamin  Hawkins in the late
18th century.  He was a politician and Indian   diplomat.
While in the south, Hawkins was requested by the President
of  the  U.S. to return to Washington .  In his response, he
was said to  write, "God  willing and the Creeks don't
rise."  Because he capitalized  the word  "Creeks" it is
deduced that he was referring to the Creek Indian  tribe and
not a  body of water.

In George  Washington's days, there were no cameras. One's
image was either sculpted or  painted.  Some paintings of
George Washington showed him  standing behind  a desk with
one arm behind his back while others showed both  legs and
both  arms.  Prices charged by painters were not based on
how many  people were  to be painted, but by how many limbs
were to be painted.  Arms and  legs  are 'limbs,' therefore
painting them would cost the buyer more.   Hence  the
expression, 'Okay, but it'll cost you an arm and a leg.'
(Artists   know hands and arms are more difficult to paint)

As incredible as it  sounds, men and women took baths only
twice a year  (May and October) Women  kept their hair
covered, while men shaved their heads  (because of lice and
bugs) and wore wigs.  Wealthy men could afford good  wigs
made from wool. They couldn't wash the wigs, so to clean
them they would  carve out a loaf of  bread, put the wig in
the shell, and bake it for 30  minutes.  The heat  would
make the wig big and fluffy, hence the term 'big  wig.. '
Today we often  use the term 'here comes the Big Wig'
because someone  appears to be or is  powerful and wealthy.
In the late 1700's,  many houses consisted of a large room
with only one  chair. Commonly, a long  wide board folded
down from the wall, and was used  for dining. The 'head of
the household' always sat in the chair while  everyone else
ate sitting on the  floor.  Occasionally a guest, who was
usually a  man, would be invited to  sit in this chair
during a meal. To sit in the  chair meant you were important
and in charge.  They called the one sitting in  the chair
the 'chair man.'  Today in business, we use the expression
or title  'Chairman' or 'Chairman of  the Board.'

Personal hygiene left  much room for improvement. As a
result, many women  and men had developed acne  scars by
adulthood. The women would spread bee's  wax over their
facial skin to  smooth out their complexions.  When they
were  speaking to each other, if  a woman began to stare at
another woman's face  she was told, 'mind your own  bee's
wax.'  Should the woman smile, the wax  would crack, hence
the term  'crack a smile'.  In addition, when they sat too
close to the fire, the  wax would melt . . . Therefore, the
expression  'losing face.'
*Ladies wore corsets,  which would lace up in the front. A
proper and  dignified woman, as in  'straight laced' wore a
tightly tied lace.

Common entertainment  included playing cards. However, there
was a tax  levied when purchasing  playing cards but only
applicable to the 'Ace of  Spades..'  To avoid  paying the
tax, people would purchase 51 cards instead.  Yet,  since
most  games require 52 cards, these people were thought to
be stupid  or dumb because  they weren't 'playing with a
full deck.'

Early politicians  required feedback from the public to
determine what the  people considered  important. Since
there were no telephones, TV's or  radios, the politicians
sent their assistants to local taverns, pubs, and bars.
They were told  to 'go sip some Ale and listen to people's
conversations and  political  concerns. Many assistants were
dispatched at different times.   'You go  sip here' and 'You
go sip there.' The two words 'go sip' were  eventually
combined when referring to the local opinion and, thus we
have the  term  'gossip.'
At local taverns,  pubs, and bars, people drank from pint
and quart-sized  containers. A bar  maid's job was to keep
an eye on the customers and keep  the drinks  coming.  She
had to pay close attention and remember who was  drinking in
'pints' and who was drinking in 'quarts,' hence the phrase
'minding  your 'P's  and Q's'.

One more: bet you  didn't know this!

In the heyday of sailing ships, all war ships and many
freighters carried  iron cannons. Those  cannons fired round
iron cannon balls.  It was  necessary to keep a good  supply
near the cannon. However, how to prevent them from  rolling
about the  deck?  The best storage method devised was a
square-based  pyramid with  one ball on top, resting on four
resting on nine, which  rested on  sixteen.  Thus, a supply
of 30 cannon balls could be stacked in a  small  area right
next to the cannon.  There was only one problem...how to
prevent the bottom layer from sliding or rolling from under
the others. The   solution was a metal plate called a
'Monkey' with 16 round indentations.    However, if this
plate were made of iron, the iron balls would quickly rust
to   it. The solution to the rusting problem was to make
'Brass Monkeys.' Few  landlubbers realize that brass
contracts much more and much faster than iron   when
chilled. Consequently, when the temperature dropped too far,
the brass indentations would shrink so much that the iron cannonballs
would come  right  off the monkey; Thus, it was quite
literally, 'Cold enough to freeze the  balls  off a brass
monkey.' (All this time, you thought that was an  improper
expression, didn't you.)


  1. Good stuff to know for sure. Thanks.
    Glad to see ya back among the living and back to posting.. keep it up!!

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