Quarantine Quiz

Learn something new every day during quarantine to prove you did something besides watch depressing news shows.

Where did the phrase “Piss Poor” come from?

People used urine to tan animal skins, so families used to pee in one pot and then once a day take the urine and sell it to the tannery…if you had to do this to survive you were “Piss Poor.”

Don’t have a pot to piss in

However, worse than that were the significantly poor folk who couldn’t even afford to buy a pot. Literally they “didn’t have a pot to piss in,” and were considered the lowest of the low.

The next time you wash your hands and complain that the temperature of the water is not just how you like it, think about how things used to be.

Here are some facts about the 1500’s:

Why brides carry a floral bouquet

Most people married in June because they took their yearly bath in May, so they still smelled pretty good by June. However, since they were just starting to smell, brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide their body odor. Hence the custom today of the bride carrying a floral bouquet.

Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water

Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water. The man of the house had the privilege of the nice clean water, then all the other sons and men, then the women and finally the children. Last of all the babies.

By then the water was so dirty that you could actually lose someone in it. Hence the saying, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water!”

It’s raining cats and dogs.

Houses had thatched roofs, thick straw, piled high, with no wood underneath. It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the cats and other small animals (mice, bugs) lived in the roof. When it rained it became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip and fall off the roof. Hence the saying, “It’s raining cats and dogs.”

Origin of canopy beds

There was nothing to stop things from falling into the house. This posed a real problem in the bedroom where bugs and other droppings could mess up your nice clean bed. Hence, a bed with big posts and a sheet hung over the top afforded some protection. Hence canopy beds came into existence.

Dirt poor

The floor was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt. So the saying, “dirt poor” came into being.


The wealthy had slate floors that would get slippery in the winter when wet, so they spread thresh (straw) on floor to help keep their footing. As the winter wore on, they added more thresh until, when you opened the door, the thresh would start slipping outside. A piece of wood was placed in the entrance-way; hence: a “thresh hold.”

(Getting quite an education, aren’t you?)

Good old-fashioned cooking

In those old days, they cooked in the kitchen with a big kettle that always hung over the fire. Every day people lit the fire and added food to the pot.

They ate mostly vegetables and did not get much meat. They would eat the stew for dinner, leaving leftovers in the pot to get cold overnight and then start over the next day.

Sometimes stew had food in it that had been there for quite a while. So this rhyme came into being:

“Peas porridge hot,
“Peas porridge cold,
“Peas porridge in the pot nine days old”

Bring home the bacon

Sometimes they could obtain pork, which made them feel quite special. When visitors came over, they would hang up their bacon to show off. It was a sign of wealth that a man could, “bring home the bacon.”

Chew the fat

They would cut off a little to share with guests and would all sit around and “chew the fat.”

Tomatoes considered poisonous

Those with money had plates made of pewter. Food with high acid content caused some of the lead to leach onto the food. This caused lead poisoning death. This happened most often with tomatoes, so for the next 400 years or so, tomatoes were considered poisonous.

Upper crust

Bread was divided according to status. Workers were given the burnt bottom of the loaf, the family received the middle, and guests enjoyed the top, or “the upper crust.”

Holding a wake

Lead cups were used to drink ale or whiskey. The combination would sometimes knock the imbibers out for a couple of days. Someone walking along the road would mistake them for dead and prepare them for burial.

They were laid out on the kitchen table for a couple of days and the family would gather around and eat and drink and wait to see if they would wake up. Hence the custom of “holding a wake.”


England is old and small and the local folks started running out of places to bury people. So they would dig up coffins and would take the bones to a bone-house, and reuse the grave.

When reopening these coffins, 1 out of 25 coffins were found to have scratch marks on the inside. It was soon realized that they had been burying people alive. The perceived solution was to tie a string on the wrist of the corpse, guide the string through the coffin and up through the ground and tie it to a bell.

Someone would then have to sit out in the graveyard throughout the night (the graveyard shift) to listen for the bell; thus, someone could be, “saved by the bell” or was “considered a dead ringer.”

So that’s the truth

Now, whoever said History was boring!
Smile, because it gives your face something to do.

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