Search billions of records on


 Did you know the saying "God willing and the Creeks 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 Creeks don't
 rise." Because he capitalized the word "Creeks" 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 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.)

[ Back ]