|Good Old Days|
|Tuesday, 09 December 2008 17:00|
Coffeetalk Audio -
Someone I bumped into said they enjoyed the commentaries I do about the origins of certain phrases or expressions. I sorted through some old Coffeetalks and dug up one I did seven years ago.
I use the term “dug up” on purpose because a few hundred years ago in Europe the way the dead and dying were handles left a bit to be desired. Sometimes a corpse would be left laying on the kitchen table for a couple of days as the family gathered around to eat and drink, waiting to see if the person would wake up. Hence the custom of holding a “Wake”. In England they were running out of places to bury people so they would dig up coffins to take the contents to a “Bonehouse”. About four out of every hundred coffins were found to have scratch marks on the inside and they realized some people had been buried alive. So they started tying a string to the wrists of corpses leading up to the surface of the ground and tying it to a bell. Someone would then have to sit and listen all night…the “Graveyard shift”….in case the bell rang. Someone could be “Saved by the bell”, and was referred to as a “Dead ringer”. When you think of the unsanitary conditions people lived in five hundred years ago you can believe the origin of these expressions and practices. For example, plates and cups had high lead content and food with high acid content would cause the lead to leach into the food causing lead poisoning and maybe even death, or at least near-death. Ale and whiskey was drunk from lead cups which, we’re told, could knock a person out for a couple of days, especially if they’d had lots to drink. They could be taken for dead and….away they’d go to be prepared for burial. Ah, the good old days!
That’s Coffeetalk. I’m Vic Dubois.oem software