9.08.2004

Legends - minding your "P's" and "Q's"

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,"
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As incredible as it sounds, men and women took a bath 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. The wigs couldn't be washed so to
clean them, they could 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.
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In the late 1700s many houses consisted of a large room with only one
chair. Commonly, a long wide board was folded down from the wall and
used for dining. The "head of the household" always sat in the chair while
everyone else ate sitting on the floor. Once in a while an invited guest
would be offered to sit in this chair during a meal (who was almost always
a man). To sit in the chair meant you were important and in charge. Sitting
in the chair, one was called the "chair man." Today in business we use the
expression/title "Chairman.. or Chairman of the Board"
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Needless to say, 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." Also, when they sat too close to the fire, the wax would
melt and therefore the expression "losing face."
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Ladies wore corsets which would lace up in the front. A tightly tied lace
was worn by a proper and dignified lady as in "straight laced."
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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."
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Early politicians required feedback from the public to determine what was
considered important to the people. Since there were no telephones, TV's
or radios, the politicians sent their assistants to local taverns, pubs and
bars who 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."
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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
term "minding your 'P's and Q's
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