Some dubious history

September 22, 2010 at 8:40 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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.’ (Artists know hands and arms are more difficult to paint) *******

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. *******

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.’ *******

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.’ *******

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

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 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.’ *******

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 ‘ *******

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 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.’ (All this time, you thought that was an improper expression, didn’t you.)




Odd news from around the world

Man amasses $270k in traffic fines: “Police in Brazil say they have caught an Italian man who managed to amass $270,000 in traffic fines and other penalties linked to his van. Police say they arrested 62-year-old engineer Roberto Cintio at his office after a 10-day investigation. Most of Mr Cintio’s fines were for speeding, which are levied in Brazilian cities by radar cameras without a police stop of the vehicle. Other fines were for parking, not paying vehicle property taxes and other infractions. Police said Mr Cintio likely evaded police by using false IDs. It says several blank identification cards were found with him. There was no indication how long it took Mr Cintio to build up the fines on his nine-year-old General Motors van.”

US millionaire leaves estate to help rare Australian animal: “In a real-life fairytale, an American millionaire has bequeathed $8 million to the Mannum-based Wombat Awareness Organisation. The millionaire, whose family has requested anonymity, unexpectedly visited the team of volunteers about two years ago to see the southern hairy-nosed wombats in the wild. “I took him out into the wild population and showed him wombats with mange, wombats that were starving to death and wombats with burrows from motorbike tyres,” she said. The millionaire, who worked in the horse-racing industry, was captivated by the volunteers’ tireless efforts to save what may be becoming an endangered icon.”

Lettuce burglar in Britain? “Police have today been branded ‘absolutely ludicrous’ after issuing an unusual e-fit of burglary suspect with what appears to be a lettuce balanced on his head. Residents were astounded when confronted with the image released by Hampshire Constabulary, with many ridiculing the artist’s impression. One local declared: ‘It looks more like a bald man stood in front of an iceberg lettuce. I can’t imagine anyone actually has a hairstyle like that. The male suspect is believed to have stolen £60 from an 85-year-old woman’s handbag at her home in Stockbridge, Hampshire. Police said they hope the image will help them trace the suspect, following the alleged robbery on August 27”.

The Japs don’t like druggies: “US socialite Paris Hilton was “very disappointed” about having to remain holed up in a Tokyo airport hotel yesterday after being detained by immigration officials when she arrived in Japan just one day after pleading guilty to cocaine charges, Hilton’s rep told E! Online. The 29-year-old hotel heiress arrived at the Narita International Airport in Japan yesterday on a chartered flight and was detained by immigration officials because she had pleaded guilty to a cocaine possession charge the day before. No one on a suspended jail term is allowed entry into Japan except for “special reasons,” the Narita branch of the Tokyo immigration control office told local news agency Jiji.”

Shoe-loving crook: “A spendthrift former Walt Disney Co. secretary pleaded guilty Tuesday to stealing inside information as part of a plot to purchase pricey purses and designer shoes. Cash-strapped Bonnie Hoxie agreed to spend up to 10 months in prison for concocting the scheme with her boyfriend, who was caught in an FBI sting after he tried peddling the stolen secrets to investors. Failed Hollywood restaurateur Yonni Sebbag pleaded guilty last month in a deal that could put him behind bars for up to 33 months and have him deported to his native Morocco. The duo was arrested in May after Sebbag – posing as “Jonathan Cyrus” – sent out emails offering early access to Disney’s quarterly earnings to at least 33 hedge funds and capital-management firms.”

And don’t forget to catch up with all the Strange Justice before you go.


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