DAILY CATHOLIC    WEDNESDAY     June 9, 1999     vol. 10, no. 111


To print out entire text of Today's issue, go to SECTION ONE and SECTION TWO and SECTION THREE
      The first of two gems we bring you today is derived from the dusty archives of etimology entitled "Word Origins gleaned from the sixteenth hundreds, a time we are focusing on with our History of the Mass and Holy Mother Church on-going series during these weeks and was submitted by NH on the e-mail circuit. The second is a satirical ditty reminiscent of Jan and Dean's "Little Ol' Lady from Pasadena" entitled "Grandma is an old microsofty!" submitted by LS via e-mail.

Word Origins

          Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May, and were still smelling pretty good by June, although they were starting to smell; so brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the B.O.

          Baths equaled 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 pets...dogs, cats and other small animals, mice, rats, bugs lived on 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 really mess up your nice clean bed, so they found if they made beds with big posts and hung a sheet over the top, it addressed that problem. Hence those beautiful big 4 poster beds with canopies.

          The floor was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt, hence the saying "dirt poor."

          The wealthy had slate floors which in the winter would get slippery when wet. So they spread thresh 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 at the entry way, hence a "thresh hold."

          They cooked in the kitchen in a big kettle that always hung over the fire. Every day they lit the fire and added things to the pot. They mostly ate 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 in there for a month. Hence the rhyme: "peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old."

          Sometimes they could obtain pork and would feel really special when that happened. When company came over, they would bring out some bacon and hang it to show it off. It was a sign of wealth and that a man "could really 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 a high acid content caused some of the lead to leach into the food. This happened most often with tomatoes, so they stopped eating tomatoes...for 400 years.

          Most people didn't have pewter plates, but had trenchers - a piece of wood with the middle scooped out like a bowl. Trenchers were never washed and a lot of times worms got into the wood. After eating off wormy trenchers, they would get "trench mouth."

          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 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 and see if they would wake up. Hence the custom of holding a "wake."

          England is old and small and they started running out of places to bury people. So they would dig up coffins, take their bones to a house and reuse the grave. In reopening these coffins, one out of 25 coffins were found to have scratch marks on the inside and they realized they had been burying people alive. So they thought they would tie a string on their wrist and 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 to listen for the bell. Hence on the "graveyard shift" they would know that someone was "saved by the bell" or he was a "dead ringer."

Grandma is an old microsofty!

      Grandma's on the Internet
      You won't believe the nuts she's met
      But what she'd really like to know
      Is where are those who quilt and sew
      And do the things she likes to do?
      She'd give them hints, and learn some too.

      She used to be "scared" of a wee little mouse
      Would scream if one ever got in the house.
      Now she hugs one night and day
      She'd rather cuddle it than stay
      On the couch and watch TV
      Her first love now is her P.C.

      Windows were glass she'd wash and look through
      Now they are programs to help her view
      The earth and the sea and the beautiful sky
      A virus was something from which you could die
      Now it's a nuisance that could spoil your day,
      But it can be fixed and sent on its way.

      She served her time with diapers and dishes,
      Now she can do whatever she wishes.
      And if that means staying up half the night
      To point arrows at icons-that's really all right.

      A bit was something you had little of,
      Now it takes eight bytes to make the above
      It's all so confusing, it makes her head ache.
      A byte was something you took from a cake.
      She's learning more about it now
      Her four year old grandchild showed her how.

June 9, 1999       volume 10, no. 111


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