Amusing Word Origins

By John "Birdman" Bryant

> >Did you know?
> >In George Washington's days, there were no cameras. One's image was
> >either sculpted or painted. Some paintings of George Washington showed
> >him standing behind a desk with one arm behind his back while others
> >showed both legs and both arms. Prices charged by painters were not
> >based on how many people were to be painted, but by how many limbs were
> >to be painted. Arms and legs are "limbs," therefore painting them would
> >cost the buyer more. Hence the expression, "Okay, but it'll cost you an
> >arm and a leg."
> >*********************************************************************
> >As incredible as it sounds, men and women took baths only twice a year!
> >(May and October) Women kept their hair covered, while men shaved their
> >heads
> >(because of lice and bugs) and wore wigs. Wealthy men could afford good
> >wigs made from wool. The wigs couldn't be washed, so to clean them they
> >could carve out a loaf of bread, put the wig in the shell, and bake it
> >for 30 minutes. The heat would make the wig big and fluffy, hence the
> >term "big wig." Today we often use the term "here comes the Big Wig"
> >because someone appears to be or is powerful and wealthy.
> >********************************************************************
> >In the late 1700s, many houses consisted of a large room with only one
> >chair.
> >Commonly, a long wide board was folded down from the wall and used or
> >dining. The "head of the household" always sat in the chair while
> >everyone else ate sitting on the floor. Once in a while, a guest (who
> >was almost always a man) would be invited to sit in this chair during a
> >meal. To sit in the chair meant you were important and in charge.
> >Sitting in the chair, one was called the "chair man." Today in business
> >we use the expression or title "Chairman" or "Chairman of the Board."
> >*********************************************************************
> >Needless to say, personal hygiene left much room for improvement. As a
> >result, many women and men had developed acne scars by adulthood. The
> >women would spread bee's wax over their facial skin to smooth out their
> >complexions. When they were speaking to each other, if a woman began to
> >stare at another woman's face she was told "mind your own bee's wax."
> >Should the woman smile, the wax would crack, hence the term "crack a
> >smile." Also, when they sat too close to the fire, the wax would melt
> >and therefore the expression "losing face."
> >*********************************************************************
> >Ladies wore corsets which would lace up in the front. A tightly tied
> >lace was worn by a proper and dignified lady as in "straight laced."
> >************************************************************
> >Common entertainment included playing cards. However, there was a tax
> >levied when purchasing playing cards but only applicable to the "Ace of
> >Spades." To avoid paying the tax, people would purchase 51 cards
> >instead. Yet, since most games require 52 cards, these people were
> >thought to be stupid or dumb because they weren't "playing with a full
> >deck."
> >*********************************************************************
> >Early politicians required feedback from the public to determine what
> >was considered important to the people. Since there were no telephones,
> >TV's or radios, the politicians sent their assistants to local taverns,
> >pubs, and bars who were told to "go sip some ale" and listen to people's
> >conversations and political concerns. Many assistants were dispatched at
> >different times. "You go sip here" and "You go sip there." The two
> >words "go sip" were eventually combined when referring to the local
> >opinion and, thus we have the term "gossip."
> >************************************************************************
> >
> >At local taverns, pubs, and bars, people drank from pint and quart-sized
> >containers. A bar maid's job was to keep an eye on the customers and
> >keep the drinks coming. She had to pay close attention and remember who
> >was drinking in "pints" and who was drinking in "quarts," hence the term
> >"minding your "P's and Q's."
> >************************************************************
> >One more: bet you didn't know this!
> >
> >In the heyday of sailing ships, all war ships and many freighters
> >carried iron cannons. Those cannons fired round iron cannon balls. It
> >was necessary to keep a good supply near the cannon, but how to prevent
> >them from rolling about the deck? The best storage method devised was a
> >square based pyramid with one ball on top, resting on four resting on
> >nine, which rested on sixteen. Thus, a supply of 30 cannon balls could
> >be stacked in a small area right next to the cannon. There was only one
> >problem...how to prevent the bottom layer from sliding or rolling from
> >under the others. The solution was a metal plate called a "Monkey" with
> >16 round indentations. But, if this plate were made of iron, the
> >ironballs would quickly rust to it. The solution to the rusting problem
> >was to make "Brass Monkeys." Few landlubbers realize that brass
> >contracts much more and much faster than iron when chilled.
> >Consequently, when the temperature dropped too far, the brass
> >indentations would shrink so much that the iron cannonballs would come
> >right off the monkey. Thus, it was quite literally, "Cold enough to
> >freeze the balls off a brass monkey."
> >
> >
>

 

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