Old Expressions and Where They Came From

Discussion in 'Humor - Jokes - Games and Diversions' started by Legion489, Jun 1, 2017.

  1. Legion489

    Legion489 Rev. 2:19 Banned


    “They used to use urine to tan animal skins, so families used to all pee in a pot Once a day it was taken and sold to the tannery.

    If you had to do this to survive, you were ‘piss poor.’

    But worse than that were the really poor folks who couldn’t even afford to buy a pot. They ‘didn’t have a pot to piss in’ and were considered the lowest of the low.”


    “Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May, and they still smelled pretty good by June.

    However, since they were starting to smell, 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 with thick straw-piled high and 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 term, ‘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 added more thresh until, when you opened the door, it would all start slipping outside. A piece of wood was placed in the entrance-way.

    Hence, ‘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 whisky. 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.’”


    “In old, small villages , 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. Now, whoever said history was boring?”

    This incredible piece about “the way things were” is a great reminder to respect our rich history.

    Which of these sayings do you use? Had you heard these explanations before?

    Please SHARE this nostalgic look back with friends and family!
  2. chelloveck

    chelloveck Diabolus Causidicus

    Some very evocative Depression Era photos.....a good, interesting thread.
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2017
  3. Ura-Ki

    Ura-Ki Grudge Monkey

    Some I can add, " The whole 9 yards" is the length of a belt of .50 cal heavy machine gun ammo of exactly 1000 rounds, the term "Give um the whole 9 yards" was a WW-II bomber gunners instructions to unload every thing he had at an enemy aircraft!
    "Put the Screws to it" was a naval term, meaning go to full throttle swiftly, if you lived on the east coast, you would some times hear the saying "boy does that thing screw" a more modern interpretation saying your boat is fast, or it has great legs! "Dog Tired" was a term used originally by slaves, having worked like dogs in the fields. "Balls Out" was a saying railroaders and others that used steam engines know about, it refers to the steam engine speed governor, which is a spinning pair of iron balls that use centrifugal force to regulate the engine speed. "Getting your steam up", is also a steam engine term, means to bring the boilers(s) up to pressure. "Give me a shot" a poor cowboy or miner would often be unable to afford a class of whisky, instead he would trade a round ( SHOT) of ammo for a single swallow of whisky, the two were deemed of equal value! "Betting the farm" was a term that was used when a farmer had to mortgage his farm to pay for seed for the next seasons crop, or live stock in hopes of breeding or butchering to pay for that years income.
    I have heard so many, and it's always fun to learn from whence they came!
    Bandit99, Aeason, arleigh and 4 others like this.
  4. DKR

    DKR Raconteur of the first stripe

    Thanks for the photos - from way back when when real poverty stalked the land....

    Folks today have no idea.
    3cyl, sarawolf, Aeason and 4 others like this.
  5. aardbewoner

    aardbewoner judge a human on how he act,not on look and talk.

    Indeed nice pictures and explaining where the expressions come from.
    @DKR yes the folks today have no idea,no surprise do looking at what i learned and the kids learn today.
  6. chelloveck

    chelloveck Diabolus Causidicus

    I think the difference between then and now is that essential truths and the knowledge and skills necessary for a hard scrabble existence were learned from mom in the kitchen, and from dad in the garage, the barn, at the end of a fishing pole or ploughing the lower 40...consulting an android AP, You tube video clip, or an 'instructible' isn't much of a substitute. When post-teens have to consult The Art of Manliness to learn what it is to be manly...civilisation is in deep trouble....:(
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2017
    Aeason, Ura-Ki, Legion489 and 2 others like this.
  7. Aeason

    Aeason Monkey

    I enjoyed the history lesson, I have heard and probably used many of the sayings not thinking of how or where they originated.
  8. Legion489

    Legion489 Rev. 2:19 Banned

    Back when guns were part of America, expressions about them became popular. The following are gun expressions:

    Lock, stock and barrel -
    This comes from a time of muzzleloaders. You had the lock (match, wheel, flint, percussion, other), stock and a barrel. That was the entire firearm, "a lock, a stock and a barrel", so it came to mean "complete" or "all".

    Shooting your mouth off -
    Shooting was considered a fine art and if you ran down someone's shooting, you were challenged to a shooting match. When the fool was proven to be a liar, or was acting like an ass, they were justly considered a fool for "shooting their mouths off".

    Put your money where your mouth is -
    See above. Only this time you had to back up your big mouth with money or something of value, or "put your money where your mouth is" at the shooting match.

    Hair Trigger -
    When a firearms trigger is lighten to the point that any pressure (some set triggers can be set to literally be set off with the pressure of being blown on), or "a hair" can set them off, it has a "hair trigger", or is easily set off. So some idiot that gets upset at anything has a "hair trigger".

    Whole 9 yards - (muddled).
    1) In WWII the .50 cal machineguns on planes were loaded with 27 feet of linked ammo, or "the whole nine yards" for each machinegun.
    2) Cement trucks have 9 yards of concrete in them, so to empty the whole load, so none came back, was to "give them the whole nine yards".
    There are several other places were this expression may have come from as well. At this point no one is really sure which is the original.

    Straight shooter -
    A person who was a good shot and hit what they were aiming at, or a "straight shooter". One who could do what they said they could do, and not someone who was "shooting their mouth off".

    Quick on the Draw-
    Person who, when they decided to do something, did it right away. Usually not intended as a complement. Stand up gun fights - two men walking down the main street at high noon, was extremely rare. In fact there are only a handful of authenticated cases of that. What was far, far more common was some idiot with a "hair trigger" was offended and shot someone in the back or called their name, and when they turned around, shot them for some alleged slight.

    Riding shotgun -
    A stagecoach had a driver and a guard who sat next to the driver. Shotguns were more common than rifles, and easier to hit with when bouncing along on a stage or wagon. Anyone sitting next to the driver is "riding shotgun".

    Shot of whiskey - (noted above)
    When a cowboy came to town, he might not have the money to drink, so he traded a round of ammunition (a loaded cartridge) for a drink. The small cup used for this then became known as a "shot glass".

    Shooting the Bull -
    When two cowboys meet, they would pull out Bull Durum tobacco and roll a cigarette and talk, or "shoot the bull".

    Bull Pen -
    The pit or "pen" where baseball payers sit when not playing. Bull Durum tobacco always had a big sign over this place to advertise their tobacco. The pit became known as the Bull Pen after this sign.

    Bedlam -
    Bethlehem Hospital in London for nut cases. Guards were paid to give tours of the raving, mad, imbecilic inmates, which were pretty much allowed to run wild or chained up. Bethlehem became shortened to "bedlam" to mean running wild or confusion.

    Cost you an arm or a leg -
    In the U.S. Civil War (War of Northern Aggression) if you were wounded in the arm or leg the doctors would simply cut off the arm or leg and throw them out the nearest window, which is why they operated on the second floor, as the hacked off arms and legs would often be as high as the second story windows after large battles. Of course the doctors cleaned nothing and never washed, just went from person to person and operated or sawed of limbs off as they went. Most people died of shock or infections after this. Also why so many women died in child birth as the quack might have just come from cutting up a dead body and refused to wash.

    Operating Theater -
    Operations were public entertainment. There was a round hole in the roof so people could come watch the show.

    Operating Suite -
    Same as above, but better class of people, who could pay more to have seats and food brought in.
    Motomom34 likes this.
  9. Bandit99

    Bandit99 Monkey+++ Site Supporter+

    @Legion489 "They ‘didn’t have a pot to piss in’ and were considered the lowest of the low.”
    My old grandma normally gave me this worldly advice when she thought I was lazy doing my chores or in my studies and declared I wouldn't make anything out of myself, "You won't have a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out." She got the point across and I did finish school even managed to scrape through university just to prove the old bitty wrong. LOL!
  10. enloopious

    enloopious Rocket Surgeon

    2 bits. This was from the time when gold and silver was in use. It took 8 pieces to make a dollar, or 'pieces of 8'. Since 2 of those were a quarter of a dollar that is why 2 bits equals a quarter. I was pretty disappointed the first time I got paid '2 bits' to do some yard work and only got a quarter when done.

    Black Balled. During the degree rituals of becoming a FreeMason they hand around a double chambered box containing several white marbles and a few black ones where all of the Master Masons vote on the new candidate. If someone didn't like you they could take one of the black balls and drop it in the voting box and you would be dragged out of the lodge by the 'cable tow'. Thus being blackballed meant kicked out or outcast.

    In God We Trust. A FreeMason has to know this in order to be admitted to the lodge for initiation. When they ask in whom do you put your trust the answer is In God. This was around before the USA and was put on the money by FreeMasons.

    Given the 3rd degree. This is the most complex of the 3 degrees of free masonry and it is quite doubtful that anyone could pass the third degree even if they knew all of the words to the ceremony because of the complex moves, gestures, and hand shake. Most initiates practice for weeks. So being given the third degree means the hardest of the hard.
    Legion489 and Dunerunner like this.
  11. Legion489

    Legion489 Rev. 2:19 Banned

    "Bits" were from the old Spanish Doubloon "Wagon Wheel/pieces of eight" silver coins. There was a wagon wheel on the back with spokes. If you cut the coin along the spokes, you had eight wedges or pie cuts, or eight "bits". Each bit was 12 1/2 cents each, two bits was 25 cents, three bits was 37 1/2 cents, or a days wages for a skilled craftsman at the time the coins were in use.

    An interesting side note, that has nothing to do with the thread, California banned paper money for quite a few years, until the banksters were able to force the state to use paper money, so the banksters could get their claws into the people pockets. Gold and silver was the ONLY Constitutional money allowed (and is still useful when buying and selling certain items, such as land at tax auctions, if you know and follow the laws, which REALLY pisses off the scum!).
    Dunerunner likes this.
  12. T. Riley

    T. Riley Monkey+++ Site Supporter++

    "I don't give a tinker's dam" was one of my aunts favorite sayings. I always thought she was cussing. During the depression men would travel around mending cooking pots with holes by building a dam around the hole with clay. Molten metal was poured in the dam and when the metal harden, the "tinker" discarded the worthless dam.

    "Getting down to brass tacks" referred to tacks set in a sales counter exactly three feet apart used to measure cloth for sale by the yard. These were very common when I was growing up.
    Motomom34, Dunerunner and Gator 45/70 like this.
  13. T. Riley

    T. Riley Monkey+++ Site Supporter++

    Not exactly the same but interesting.

    Gator 45/70 likes this.
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