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 of carrying a bouquet when getting married.
Baths consisted of big tubs filled with hot water. The man of the house had the privilege of nice clean water, then all the other sons and men, then the women and finally the children, and 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 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 where bugs and other droppings could really mess up your
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 hold."
In those old days they cooked in a 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 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 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, they would hang up
their bacon to show off. It was a sign of wealth that the 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 into 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 burnt bottom of the loaf, 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 to see if they would wake up - hence the custom of holding a "wake."
England is old and small and local folks started running out of places to bury people. They would dig up coffins and would take the bones to the "bone-house" and reuse the grave. When reopening these coffins, 1 out of 25 were found to have scratch marks on the inside and they realized they had been burying people alive! 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 (graveyard shift) to listen for the bell, thus someone would be "saved by the bell" or was considered a "dead ringer."
A few others I came across:
In Shakespeare's time, mattresses were secured on bed frames by ropes. When you pulled on the ropes the mattress tightened, making the bed firmer to sleep on. Hence the phrase "goodnight, sleep tight".
It was the accepted
practice in Babylon 4,000 years ago that for a month after the wedding, the bride's father would supply his son-in-law with all the mead he could drink. Mead is a honey beer and because their calendar was lunar based, this period was called the honey month we know today as the honeymoon.
In English pubs, ale is
ordered by pints and quarts. So in old England, when customers got unruly, the bartender would yell at them mind their own pints and quarts and settle down. It's where we get the phrase "mind your P's and Q's"
Many years ago in England, pub frequenters had a whistle baked into the rim or handle of
their ceramic cups. When they needed a refill, they used the whistle to get some service. "Wet your whistle" is the phrase inspired by this practice.
In Scotland, a new game was invented. It was entitled Gentlemen Only Ladies Forbidden.... and thus the word GOLF entered into the English language.