England is old and so small that they started running out of places to bury people. So they would dig up coffins and re-use the grave. In reopening these coffins, one out of 25 coffins were found to have scratch marks on the inside and they realized they had been burying people alive. So they thought they would tie a string on their wrist and lead it through the coffin and up through the ground and tie it to a bell. Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night to listen for the bell. Hence the terms “graveyard shift”, “saved by the bell” and he was a “dead ringer”.
Lead cups were used to drink ale or whiskey. The combination would sometimes knock them out for a couple of days. Someone walking along the road would take 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 and see if they would wake up. Hence the custom of holding a “wake” and the origin of “making enough noise to wake the dead”.
Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May and were still smelling pretty good by June, although they were starting to smell, so brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the b.o.
Baths equaled 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 you could actually loose someone in it. Hence the saying, “don’t throw the baby out with the bath water”.
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 pets… dogs, cats and other small animals, mice, rats, 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.”…. With nothing to stop things from falling into the house. This posed a real problem in the bedroom where bugs and other droppings could really mess up your nice clean bed, so they found if they made beds with big posts and hang a sheet over the top, it addressed that problem. Hence those beautiful big 4 poster beds with canopies.
The floor was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt, hence the saying “dirt poor”. The wealthy had slate floors which in the winter they would get slippery when wet. So they spread thresh on the floor to help keep their footing. As the winter wore on they kept adding more thresh until when you opened the door it would all start slipping outside. A piece of wood was placed at the entry way, hence a “threshold”.