YE OLDE ENGLISH
- Those Were The Days
Please take note of some of these old English adages, well used and loved by many, but also probably not well known by all. Oftentimes, the way in which you lived your life literally 'spoke' for itself!
I have always been interested in getting to the bottom of things, the crux of the matter, the origin of a questionable word, and here you shall find many useful explanations for why something was said. After reading how many of these tried and true catch phrases came about, you will slap your knee and cry out, OF COURSE - IT MAKES PERFECT SENSE NOW!
This means prison or jail, so named for a prison that was located in a well known area of London called 'Clink Street'.
SAVED BY THE BELL
The medical profession of olden times left a lot to be desired. Many's a time a poor unfortunate soul was put to rest a tad too soon. This must have caused plenty of nightmares among the sick within hospitals, and I daresay many pleas of "don't bury me before I'm truly gone!" rang out night and day from such establishments! Hence a bell was tied to a string, and the string was tied to the deceased (or the hopefully deceased) persons toe. If one awoke in a grave prematurely , with just a wiggle of the toe they would be saved by the ringing of the bell.
CUT THROUGH THE RED TAPE
Years ago businessmen had a fashion of tying their papers of great importance with red ribbons. This was easy to see when looking for crucial documents, and in order to gain access to the files, the ribbon or tape needed to be 'cut' first.
WET YOUR WHISTLE
During times of old, the publicans would bake tiny whistles or noisemakers into the rims or edges of their drinking cups. Once a customer had drunk the contents, all they needed to do was blow the whistle and their glass would be refilled by the eager barmaids.
CHEW THE FAT
When families had company in years gone by, the host would kindly and generously offer them a piece of bacon fat to chew whilst they chatted. This prized tidbit of bacon was considered a delicacy and was usually stored above the fireplace in the sitting room or parlour.
TURN THE TABLES
Since money was often scarce in poorer families, our long ago ancestors devised a way of having 'two tables in one'. One side of the table was used for family meals only, but when guests visited the entire tabletop flipped over to the other side. The newer side was only used for entertaining, giving the impression to guests that the host family was well off owing to such a shiny tabletop.
The bed frames of long ago were strung across with ropes and there was a matting of straw thrown over the ropes to fashion the main mattress of the bed. Of course with wear and tear and sleeping, the ropes sometimes became quite loose. Then it was required to 'tighten' the bed ropes so that a good nights sleep would be assured again.
Most olden kitchens had layer upon layer of straw thrown on the floor. This made walking softer and cleaner, and the straw helped absorb cooking spills and odours throughout the winter. When the weather became warm and spring-like, the entire layer of straw was heaped out into the yard as rubbish, and a new fresh layer took it's place.
This term comes from bread being baked in stone ovens. Long ago the raw dough was put into the oven as it was, without first being put in a pan. As it baked on the baking-stone, the top part became golden and brown while the bottom of the bread was burnt black and sooty. The Lords and Ladies of the house were always served the upper crusts of the delicious toasty bread, while the lowlier servants had to settle for the burnt bottom portions.
Common English Phrases - Part 1