Historical Trivia

I was sent this as an email, by my American friend, and fellow blogger, Ed Westen.
I though it was well-worth posting here, as both education, and entertainment. Even though you might have already known some of these, I doubt you would have known them all.


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” it
is deduced that he was referring to the Creek Indian tribe and not a
body of water.

****************** ********** ** ***

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 phrase ‘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. 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.)


45 thoughts on “Historical Trivia

    1. They have all been ‘debunked’ online, Olga. I have also seen articles debunking the debunking! I think that they are best looked at for amusement, as ‘possibilities’, though I have heard many of the same definitions over the decades. At least they created debate and comment.
      Best wishes, Pete.


    1. I am sure that some are hoaxes, others based on truth. There are many sites debunking this list as an elaborate hoax, and I have had my attention drawn to them by other bloggers too. However, truth or not, this list is good fun, and has caused much debate!
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. I still think that some are based on truth. So many of these things bounce around the Internet, and each tries to debunk the other. I have certainly heard the ‘Brass Monkey’ one before, as well as the Ps and Qs, and the fact that artists charged more for details. As for ‘straight-laced’, I am certain that is authentic, to denote a lady who had properly laced corsetry, and was thought to be prim and proper as a result.
          The debate continues! x 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  1. Being in the South I was aware of the Creek thing….there were two factions…White Stick and Red Stick…the Reds had a tendency to rise up and take it out on the white settlers…..a simple explanation….love the rest of them as well….kudos…chuq

    Liked by 1 person

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