Some lighthearted things to think about

A  wee bit of Historical knowledge for YOU related to our old sayings

 

Early aircraft  throttles had a ball on the end of it, in order to go full  throttle the pilot had to push the throttle all the way forward into the wall of the instrument panel. Hence “balls to the wall” for going very fast. And now you know the rest of the  story.

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During WWII, U.S. Airplanes were armed with belts  of bullets which they would shoot during dogfights and on  strafing runs.  These belts were folded into the wing compartments that fed their machine guns. These belts measure 27 feet and contained hundreds of rounds of bullets. Often times, the pilots would return from their missions having expended all of their bullets  on various targets. They would say, I gave them the whole nine yards, meaning they used up all of their ammunition.

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Did you know the saying “God willing and the creek don’t rise” was in reference to the Creek Indians and not  a body of water? It was written by Benjamin Hawkins in the late 18th century. He was a politician and Indian diplomat. While in the south, Hawkins was requested by the President of the U.S. to return to Washington In his response, he was said to write, “God  willing and the Creek don’t rise.” Because he capitalized the word “Creek”, he was referring to the Creek Indian tribe  and not a body of water.

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In George Washington’s days, there were no cameras. One’s image was either sculpted or painted. Some paintings  of  GeorgeWashington 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.’  (Artists know hands and arms are more difficult to paint.)

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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. They couldn’t wash the wigs, so to clean them they would 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.

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In the late 1700’s, many houses consisted of a large room with only one chair. Commonly, a long wide board folded  down  from the wall, and was used for dining. The ‘head of the household’ always sat in the chair while everyone else ate sitting on the floor. Occasionally a guest, who was usually 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. They called the one sitting in the chair the ‘chair man.’ Today in business, we use the expression or title ‘Chairman’ or ‘Chairman of the Board.’

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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’. In addition, when they sat too close to the fire, the wax would melt. Therefore, the expression ‘losing face.’

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Ladies wore corsets, which would lace up in the front. A proper and dignified woman, as in ‘straight laced’ wore  a tightly tied lace.

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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.’

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Early politicians required feedback from the  public to determine what the people considered important. Since  there  were no telephones, TV’s or radios, the politicians sent their  assistants to local taverns, pubs, and bars. They 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.’

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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 phrase ‘minding your  ‘P’s and Q’s’.

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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. However, 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. However, if this plate were made of iron, the  iron balls would quickly rust to it. The solution to the rusting problem was to make ‘Brass Monkeys.’

Few landlubbers  realize that brass contracts greater and much faster than iron when it’s chilled. Consequently, when the temperature dropped too far, the brass indentations would shrink so much that the iron cannonballs would roll right off the monkey; Thus, it was quite  literally, ‘Cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey.’

“any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”, Sir Arthur C. Clarke

 

 

 

 

 

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