Word/Phrase History

Ever wonder where some of the words and phrases we use today came from? Well, here is a little history....true or not, makes a great story, ey?


Lady Godiva

You have heard of Lady Godiva, right? She rode through town and into the Market Place to protest a tax. The story goes that all of the respectable towns people looked away and shut their shutters.....except one, named Tom, who peeked through to see this lovely lady riding a beautiful horse in nothing but what God gave her on her birthday.


Gypsy as Robyn Hood

The History of the Middle Finger?
Well, now......here's something I never knew before, and now that I know it, I feel compelled to share it with my more intelligent friends in the hope that they, too, will feel edified. Isn't history more fun when you know something about it?

Before the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, the French, anticipating victory over the English, proposed to cut off the middle finger of all captured English soldiers. Without the middle finger it would be impossible to draw the renowned English longbow and therefore they would be incapable of fighting in the future. This famous English longbow was made of the native English Yew tree, and the act of drawing the longbow was known as 'plucking the yew' (or 'pluck yew').

Much to the bewilderment of the French, the English won a major upset and began mocking the French by waving their middle fingers at the defeated French, saying, See, we can still pluck yew! Since 'pluck yew' is rather difficult to say, the difficult consonant cluster at the beginning has gradually changed to a labiodentals fricative F', and thus the words often used in conjunction with the one-finger-salute! It is also because of the pheasant feathers on the arrows used with the longbow that the symbolic gesture is known as 'giving the bird.'

And yew thought yew knew every plucking thing.


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 wood underneath. It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the 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 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 et slippery in the winter when wet, so they spread thresh (straw) on floor to help keep their footing. As the winter wore on, they added more thresh until, when you opened the door, it would all start slipping outside. A piece of wood was placed in the entranceway. Hence the saying a thresh hold.

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 leftovers in the pot to get cold overnight and then start over the next day.Sometimes 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 content caused some of the lead to leach onto the food, causing lead poisoning 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, the family got the middle, and guests got the top, or the upper crust.

Lead cups were used to drink ale or whiskey. The combination would sometimes knock the imbibers 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 and 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 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 ringer..


Here are some right from the Bible....words of old for sure.

Kiss of Death - Matthew 26:48 & Mark 14:44

Eat, Drink and be Merry - I Kings 4:20 and Ecclesiastes 2:24

From the lips of Children - Psalm 8:2

If I had the wings of a dove - Psalm 55:6

Ebenezer Stone - I Samuel 7:12

Can't take it with you when you die - Psalm 48:17

Wear out your welcome - Proverbs 25:17

Land of Goshen - Genesis 47:6

Good Guy on White Horse - Revelation 6:2

A little bird told me - Ecclesiastes 10:20

Written in stone Deuteronomy 4:13

Apple of His eye Zechariah 2:8 & Deuteronomy 32:10

Wind in their wings Zechariah 5:9

Hand writing on the wall Daniel 5:5

Laying out a fleece - Judges 6:36 - 40

Scapegoat Leviticus 6:10

Get your house in order II Samuel 17:23

Skin of my teeth - Job 19:20

Without sin throw the first stone - John 8:7

Can a Leopard change it's spots? - Jeremiah 13:23

Hung like a horse - Ezekiel 23:20

Parting gifts - Micah 1:14

Gave up the Ghost Genesis - 25:8 & 17

Once and for all - Hebrews 9:12

Is the Lord's arm too short? - Numbers 11:23

Took my life in my hands - Judges 12:3

Rid the earth of you - II Samuel 4:11

Hole in your pockets - Haggai 1:6


Parting Gifts - Micah 1:14

Make up - II Kings 9:30

Old Wives Tale - I Timothy 4:7

Cutting Body and Tattoos - Leviticus 19:28

Personal Injury Claims - Exodus 21:12-36

Stall Fed Cattle - I Kings 4:23

Old Days Were Better - Ecclesiastes 7:10

There is one Christmas Carol that has always baffled me.

What in the world do leaping lords, French hens,
swimming swans, and especially the partridge who won't come out of the pear tree have to do with Christmas?

This week, I found out.

From 1558 until 1829, Roman Catholics in England were not permitted to practice their faith openly. Someone during that era wrote this carol as a catechism song for young Catholics. It has two levels of meaning: the surface meaning plus a hidden meaning known only to members of their church. Each element in the carol has a code word for a religious reality which the children could remember.

-The partridge in a pear tree was Jesus Christ.

-Two turtle doves were the Old and New Testaments.

-Three French hens stood for faith, hope and love.

-The four calling birds were the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John.

-The five golden rings recalled the Torah or Law, the first five books of the Old Testament.

-The six geese a-laying stood for the six days of creation.

-Seven swans a-swimming represented the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit--Prophesy, Serving, Teaching, Exhortation, Contribution, Leadership, and Mercy.

-The eight maids a-milking were the eight beatitudes.

-Nine ladies dancing were the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit--Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness,

Gentleness, and Self Control.

-The ten lords a-leaping were the ten commandments.

-The eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven faithful disciples.

-The twelve drummers drumming symbolized the twelve points of belief in the Apostles' Creed.


Smoke Enama


Known facts

They used to use urine to tan animal skins, so families used to all pee in a pot & then once a day it was taken & sold to the tannery.......if you had to do this to survive you were "Piss Poor".
But worse than that were the really poor folk who couldn't even afford to buy a pot......they "didn't have a pot to piss in" and were the lowest of the low.


The word carousel means "little war", and originally was used to describe a combat preparation exercise and game played by Turkish and Arabian horsemen in the 1100s. The early carousel was used as a cavalry training mechanism to prepare and strengthen the riders for actual combat as they wielded their swords at mock enemies.


I have heard the phrase for many years "She kicked the bucket" meaning someone died. "Kicked the bucked"? OK, now that I am milking Rena, my goat that must be restrained while milking.........I get it.

If a person really needed the milk, way back when. If a person's child or baby really needed that milK and the goat or cow "kicked the bucket" everyday, over and over, I can see why it met it's maker. (So that you know.....Rena comes right in. Stands still for most of the milking, then, as some goats do.....kicks the bucket. (or at my hand or....) And I swear, she grins!)

And then the phrase "Don't cry over spilled milk" I am pretty sure it did not mean a glassful (no, I have not had a milk bucket, full of milk kicked over in several years, but I have had it happen to me)

VALENTINE'S DAY according to American Minute with Bill Federer

In the 3rd century, Emperor Claudius II was faced with defending the Roman Empire from the invading Goths.

He believed men who were not married made better soldiers so he forced the military to ban traditional marriage.

He also forced the Senate to deify the former Emperor Gallienus, including him with the Roman gods to be worshiped.

The ten major persecutions of Christians in the first three centuries rendered historical records scarce, but the legend is that Saint Valentine was a priest or bishop in Italy.

When the Emperor demanded the Church violate its conscience and worship pagan idols, Bishop Valentine refused to comply.

Valentine risked the Emperor's wrath by standing up for traditional marriage, and secretly marrying young men and women.

Saint Valentine was arrested, dragged before the Prefect of Rome, who condemned him to be beaten to death with clubs and then have his head cut off on FEBRUARY 14, 269AD.

While awaiting execution, the story is he prayed for the jailers' sick daughter, who miraculously recovered. He wrote her a note and signed it, "from your Valentine."

In 496 AD, Pope Gelasius designated FEBRUARY 14th as "Saint Valentine's Day."

The Greek name for Christ, Χριστός, begins with the letter "Chi" written as an "X," which is why X-mas became the abbreviation for Christmas.

In Medieval times, the "X" was called the Christ's Cross, or as it was later pronounced, "Criss-Cross."

The Christ's Cross was a form of oath, from whence "crossing one's heart" was derived.

Just as people would swear upon a Bible, then say "so help me God" and kiss it, people would sign a document next to the Christ's Cross then kissed it as a promise before God that they would keep the agreement, a practice which has come down to us as "sign at the X".

This is the origin of signing a Valentines' card with "X"s and "O"s to express a pledge before God to be faithful, sealed with a kiss of sincerity.

As with all of our sites, this site is a work in progress. We do sell Renaissance and Pirate outfits for pet rats, guinea pig and other small animals on our sister sites. We also sell Pirate Hats for small dogs and will be adding some of larger sizes and more variety, as well as Pirate Outfits for dogs, soon.
The contents of this page for Word/Phrase History is still under construction. Please check back later!

-- The Renaissance Rats Team
Thu, 08 Oct 2009 20:03:13 -0400

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