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. If the bell would ring they would know that someone was “saved by the bell” or he was a “dead ringer”.

Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Richmond, illegitimate son of Henry VIII, was married off to Lady Mary Howard when he was fourteen. The marriage remained unconsummated at his death at age 17. The workers would get the burnt bottom of the loaf, the family would get the middle and guests would get the top, or the “upper crust”. They took their yearly bath in May, so they were till smelling pretty good by June, although they were starting to smell, so the brides would carry a bouquet of flowers to hide their b.o.

Need synonyms for piss-poor? Here’s a list of similar words from our thesaurus that you can use instead.

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. Larkin’s letters, wrote Philippe Auclair, writer and broadcaster, were “very funny, very beautiful, and very sad; the grace of an angel, the precision of a geometer, and the short-sighted, intolerant piss-poor idées fixes of a provincial buffoon”. This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia . “Everyone just wrapped up in their blanket and slept on the floor. They had no indoor heating so all the extra bodies kept them warm.” Until such time as both kids were deemed old enough to advance the state of their union into full-blown matrimony. To put it more directly, though the teens might call each other “husband” and “wife,” they didn’t begin cohabiting and having sex until their mid-teens at the earliest, and only when both families agreed the kids were ready to take this step.

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No matter how many inboxes this popular e-mail has landed in, it never once enlightened anyone. Indeed, it probably left more than a few looking like utter fools when they tried to pass this “knowledge” along to friends better versed in phrase origins. Food that needed to be pierced or cut was not placed on a bread trencher.


The pendulum soon swung the other way, with the coming of a “little ice age” at the beginning of the 13th century. A perfect example of such a union was the 1499 marriage between Catherine of Aragon and Arthur, eldest son of Henry VII of England. They were married by proxy in their native lands when Arthur was 14 and Catherine was 15. Catherine did not arrive in England until 1501, when the young royals were wed again, this time in person. Although controversy exists as to whether they might have had sexual congress before Arthur’s death in 1502, if they had done so, they accomplished it by sneaking behind everybody’s back.

After eating off the trencher with worms they would get “trench mouth.” If you were going traveling and wanted to stay at an Inn they usually provided the bed but not the board. When reopening these coffins, 1 out of 25 coffins were found to have scratch marks on the inside and they realized they had been burying people alive. Normally the piss poor planning is realized only days before or during the event. 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.” They would cut off a little to share with guests and would all sit around and chew the fat.

I learned that while reading a biography about Winston Churchill. Anyone who has ever sailed that route- England to India- on a vessel without modern air conditioning would know how much extra it would be worth to have the sun in the cool mornings, and the shade in the hot evenings. Port out, starboard home was the only way for a gentleman to travel. This one, of course, has to be really, really true, because my daddy told me about is long before the that new fangled invention, the Internet, was actually invented.

If this goes on, someone will restart that old hare of the word POSH being derived from ‘Port Out Starboard Home. If this goes on, someone will restart that old hare of the word POSH being derived from ‘Port Out Starboard Home’, or Pom standing for ‘Prisoner of Her Majesty’ (what happened to the H, by the way?). Workers got the burnt bottom of the loaf, the family got the middle, and guests got the top, or the “upper crust”. While grave-robbing did occur, there’s no evidence tying the practice to the idiom. Most people attribute the expression as mad as a hatter to Lewis Carroll’s Mad Hatter character in his 1865 Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Johnny Depp’s clown-faced, red-eyed, orange-haired portrait of the character in the 2010 movie only made the Hatter seem Madder.

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It was said Henry VII’s mother, Margaret Beaufort, was ruined by early childbirth , and Henry was not about to risk the succession of his line on another one-child mom. Equally as important was the thought common to that time that early sexual excesses could fatally weaken the health of young men. A teen prince who bedded too often, it was feared, was digging himself into an early grave. Most people didn’t have pewter plates though, they all had trenchers, that was a piece of wood with the middle scooped out like a bowl. They never washed their boards and a lot of times worms would get into the wood.

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So they started digging up some coffins and would take their bones to a house and re-use the grave. They started opening these coffins and found some had scratch marks on the inside. TM-Town is a unique new site for you — the freelance translator — to store, manage and share translation memories and glossaries…and potentially meet new clients on the basis of your prior work. In general when you get these kind of explanations of the “origins” of expressions, be very very skeptical unless an actual historical quote or pointer to a first-hand source is given to back up the claim. You could be right, but I won’t rule out the reason simply is alliteration.

  • By the mid-16th century, what had been the wooden underplaque was coming to be viewed as dinner plate in its own right.
  • Hence the custom today of carrying a bouquet when getting married.
  • Then all the other sons and men, then the women and finally the children.

Canopied four-poster beds were the province of the well-to-do, not the ordinary folk. Possibly their origin had to do with a desire to display wealth conspicuously by showing off rich tapestries and fabrics. Beautifully thick wall hangings were likewise a way of dressing up a room while at the same time putting on the dog a bit.

As an Bookkeeping woman, born and bred in the North, I grew up with these phrases and had only known the origin of one or two. —and automatically the added centuries make the story more interesting. Before inoculations against it, smallpox was one of the many deadly diseases people had to contend with. Those who survived were usually badly marked by pox scars .

This startling turn of climatic events spelled the end to that style of communal living and brought about major shifts in building styles to better protect people from the horrendous cold. The advent of the chimney made it possible to warm smaller spaces, which led to the concept of sleeping singly or in pairs in bedrooms. All this is to say that by the 1500s one would have been hard pressed to find any homes that were not heated, or where the inhabitants shivered piled up together in a communal dogpile.

piss poor job

However, as with other tongue-in-cheek suggestions about origins, a grain of truth exists in it. Urine has been widely used in many parts of the world in the preparatory stages of tanning, in particular to help remove the hair from hides before applying tanning agents. By the mid-16th century, what had been the wooden underplaque was coming to be viewed as dinner plate in its own right.

Depending on who’s trying to pull your leg, the idiom originated either in medieval markets or the filthy streets of Victorian London. Thieves were said to have crouched on the ground to literally pull at the legs of unwary (rich-looking) passers. Once tripped up, victims were robbed of all belongings.

piss poor / pot to piss in

This entry might claim a bit of legitimacy, as even some cooking practices of today call for tossing whatever’s on hand into the stewpot, with new ingredients added each day to whatever is left over. French bouillabaisse, for instance, is sometimes made this way, as are any number of “peasants’ stews.” “In the kitchen they would cook over the fire, they had a fireplace in the kitchen/parlor, that was seldom used and sometimes in the master bedroom. They had a big kettle that always hung over the fire and every day they would light the fire and start adding things to the pot.

In those old days, they cooked in the kitchen with a big kettle that always hung over the fire. By then the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it.

couple of days

“Most people married young, like at the age of 11 or 12.” Anne Hathaway’s home was a 3 bedroom house with a small parlor, which was seldom used , kitchen, and no bathroom. We were piss-poor growing up, so each one of my siblings and I understood the value of a hard-earned paycheck by the time we left school.

New words appear; old ones fall out of use or alter their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least a part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech. The Romans, for example, collected urine for this purpose systematically and even put a tax on it. The most famous taxer was the emperor Vespasian in the first century AD.

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In fact, the literal sense of extreme poverty for piss-poor didn’t come along until a couple of decades later, which also provides another reason, if one were needed, that the story you quote is nonsense. “… and they realized they had still 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.” Waking the dead is an ancient custom that extends around the world and has existed in Europe for at least the past thousand years. The term refers to the practice of watching over the corpse during the period between death and burial. Partly, this had to do with making sure someone was always around in case the corpse woke up , but the watchers were also there to make sure household animals and assorted vermin were kept off the deceased.