Monday, October 6, 2014

HISTORY CAN BE FUN!

6 OCTOBER 2014: Today is kind of a big day (for me) - this site, Maritime Maunder, hit 500 site views which, while probably not terribly significant to some of the big sites and famous people, it seems like some kind of a milestone to this beginner, especially since we only started writing this in late August! So in celebration of that mark, I am going to share fun facts from history. I often use one or another of these to begin a lecture just to lighten the mood a bit. History can be fun, especially if we don't take it too seriously! So here are a few of the gems from my files of historical, little-known facts, focusing on where some of our oft-used expressions originated.

"Don't throw the baby out with the bath water." Obviously this means we should not discard the good with the bad. But where did it originate? In 16th century England, personal hygiene was less important to folks than today. Baths happened rarely, but at least twice a year, needed or not! Baths consisted of filling a big wooden tub with hot water and then getting in. The rub was that EVERYONE in the family used it in order of seniority - without changing the water! The man of the house had the privilege of the first turn in the tub; the water was hot and clean. When he finished scrubbing off the grime of 6 months, the eldest son took his turn - same water. And so it went. When the sons had finished (and remember there were fairly large families then to work the farm or the family business, whatever it was), Mom got a turn, followed by the daughters in order of age. Last of all, Mom put the baby in water that was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it. So, "don't throw. . . ." I think you get the picture.

In that same vein, the bath often occurred in May and by June, no one really smelled too awful. Brides got married then, but in an effort to conceal what body odor there was - especially if it was hot - she carried fragrant flowers. And to this day, brides carry a bouquet of flowers, but hopefully not for the same reason!

Floors in the houses during this time were generally dirt - only the really wealthy could afford stone - generally slate - and so everyone else was "dirt poor." But the rich folks with their slate floors had a problem: when it was wet out, the floors got wet (from people's feet) and were quite slippery. So they spread straw (thresh) on the floor to help with the slippery problem. As they added more and more thresh, it would seem to pile up by the door and sometimes blew or washed out. The problem was solved by putting a board in the doorway on the floor. It was a "thresh hold."

One more: From time to time, the poor people could obtain some pork (not everyone had livestock and those that did, didn't always have pigs) and if they had the where-with-all to buy it, they felt quite special. When visitors stopped by, the homeowner would hang up  the side of bacon to let their guests know the man of the house could "bring home the bacon." And to be hospitable, the host would hack off a small piece to share and the guests would sit around and "chew the fat."

OK - I am sure some of you are groaning by now so I will stop - But I have lots of these little gems and I will share more from time to time. Until then, or until something important happens,

                                                              fair winds,
                                                                       Old Salt

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