Monday, January 12, 2009

MIND YOUR OWN BEESWAX

Bet you don't know what this post is about.  You think I'm about to go off on someone right? Not right.  Not even close.  As I've mentioned before, I'm a lover of the history of language and the origins of words and expressions.  Not that I study it or anything, I just think it's fascinating to ponder how modern language has evolved.  Tonight I found a little book I have been looking for called "Puttin' on the Dog"  that I bought in Williamsburg.  It's such a sparkly little gem of information.  I thought you might enjoy some of the interesting tidbits I've just learned.  It's pretty cool to realize that many of the expressions we still use today came from our Colonial ancestors (those folks down there) and that at one time they were totally legit and quite literal.  Pretty interesting to think about what they originally meant vs.  how we use them now.


Por ejemplo did you know that in Colonial Times women wanted to appear frail and delicate to attract men, (we've traded that look for fake boobs and bleached hair) so they'd melt beeswax mixed with lead compound and smear it on their face to achieve the "white look"  (all the rage to look sick apparently). In order to keep their faces from melting in the sun or  before a roaring fire, they'd wear a gauze mask over the top to "Save Face.".  And when wearing their lovely wax layer, they had to be careful never to "Crack a Smile." A woman who was annoying or gossipy was often told to "Mind Your Own Beeswax."  Interesting...right?  Are you hooked?

When kids were told to set the table it wasn't with knives and forks.  It meant take the board that's hanging from the kitchen rafters and set it on the trestle legs.  "Set the Table" near the fire or the door, depending on the season.  Needless to say, these tables weren't very stable so it was considered rude to "Put Your Elbows on the Table" as you might overturn it.

For all you romantics out there...  When a young gentleman goes to court his girlfriend, her family would usually give him a stick of wood to whittle--to keep his hands busy (no joke--they were frisky back then too!). Most times he would whittle a spoon for the family--that's why courting was known as "Spooning."  Hmmm....meant something a little different at BYU!

Here's one that will send Rover running! Back in the day comfortable shoes were very hard to come by.  They wouldn't come as a pair cause there was no right or left.  They were alternated each day to wear evenly.  Children's shoes were made really large and stuffed with rags to be taken out as their feet grew.  The best shoes were made of animal skins, and since nothing is wasted, this includes the family dog (actually pretty sweet if you think about it--like taking him on a walk everyday--even when he's dead).  When the dog dies he's not buried in the back yard but taken to the tanner and made into Reeboks!  However, they were their best shoes so when worn they'd say they were "Putting on the Dog."  Also, when their feet hurt, they'd say their "Dogs are Barking."

On a different note, slaveowners found that their slaves were happier when they were allowed to sing.  On many occasions they would entertain their master and mistresses in the evening with their songs.  Soon their owners began rewarding the ones they most enjoyed with cake.  In fact, the best act would "Take the Cake."

How bout one more? Macaroni was introduced to the colonies and was a very big hit. It was very fashionable to serve and became the slang term for everything and anything fashionable. If they wanted to compliment a lady's dress they'd say "I like your dress. It's really macaroni."
Hence, this is why Yankee Doodle called his feather, "Macaroni."  Don't tell me you haven't always wondered about that one!  

Just a few quickies on your way out.  When people came to visit, there wasn't much to offer in way of snacks...(pre-pretzel days) BUT... there was a nice dried pig hanging over the fireplace. Nothing shameful about slicing off a hunk and "Chewing the Fat" for awhile.  And every one knew back then that when you sneezed you were expelling the devil out yo' nose.  In order to keep Satan from freakin' turning around and going back up your nostrils, someone would quickly say "God Bless You."  

I bet you learned something dint' cha?  And just think....


someday our Great-great-great-great-great-great Grandchildren will be telling their kids, "Now you know Betty, that once upon a time "Surfing the Internet" actually meant........

12 comments:

Jayne Layne said...

I actually was just thinking about those things the other day. I got an email a while back with a bunch and I always thought they were so interesting...

One I remember is why brides carry bouquets, it was because back then they only showered about once a year, so they carried their "bouquet" to hopefully mask the scent.

JENNIFRO said...

the technical name Sweet Jayne is a "nosegay." Not really a politically correct term these days (in my humble opinon)--could be grossly misinterpreted....

jill said...

Great post! I was going to post a couple of my own, but then I start to get the origins all mixed up, I'll have to get back to you! Very interesting!

Anonymous said...

j-mark,
Was there an entry for "Oops a Daisy"? My breath is bated...

Me said...

I guess me and you have something in common after all. I was beginning to think that I was the lone man out between you, Ann, and Suzanne.

I love to learn where sayings come from. This was a very informative post for me. Thanks for sharing t with us. And if you have any more, by all means, please share!

JENNIFRO said...

Dear Anonymous,

I believe you will find your answer here:

www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/ups-a-daisy.html

G' day, mate! (it's of English origin)

Ann Marie said...

How fun! I love that you are so full of information! Your like... Google! Ha-ha!

I had an English teacher in high school that once told us how backward and confusing we all were with our sayings..
I remember her saying why do we park in Driveways, and Drive on parkways? I was like.. Ya.. We are messed up with some of our terminology..

Next time I see a cute outfit I will think "Macaroni!" He-He!
Glad you up-dated..

Lauralee said...

hat was so fun to read... you are so macaroni!

okay.. cute phrase.. have you seen this one?

Old as she was, she still missed her Daddy sometimes.

I saw this in my girl's piano teacher's home, cute little stichery.. love it.. and about made me cry.. anyway.. I am going to come up with a cute design.. sometime!

Suzanne said...

This post was AWESOME!! You need to do more of these. Shae and I were just singing Yanky Doodle on Sunday and I had the thought "seriously, what is up with the Macaroni?" Now I know!! That is great!! -Suzanne

Rebecca said...

Fun post!

Mitch said...

I love random things like that. Honestly, that's the kind of learning i yearn for. Little nibblets of information. The only one i knew was the god bless you one. All the other ones were pretty awesome. How did you know yankee doodle called his dad macaroni?

Becky and Garrett said...

that was indeed, extremely interesting. got any more?