It's no secret that English is one of the most nonsensical languages on the planet. Our grammar is full of contradictions: we have several words that sound the same but mean totally different things and some words that aren't even spelled like they sound. On top of all of this, we have a rich history of slang and popular phrases that we use every day without ever really questioning where they came from. Here's a list of some of the most common phrases and the strange history that inspired them.
1. "Piss Poor"
Urine was once used to tan animal skins. Poor families would all pee into the same pot and sell it to the tannery daily. Anyone who was forced to do this as a means of survival was referred to as "piss poor."
2. "Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater!"
Could you imagine sharing bathwater with the rest of your family? Some people could only afford one tub of bathwater for everyone living in the house. The father (who was probably the dirtiest) used it first, then his sons, his wife and his daughters. After everyone else had had a turn, they used the water to wash the babies. At that point, there was so much dirt and grime in the water that it could be tough to see below the surface, which gave rise to the phrase, "Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater!"
3. "It's raining cats and dogs!"
Homes used to feature thatched roofs. Many animals, such as family pets or local mice, would live in these roofs to stay warm. During storms, the roof would get so slippery that animals often fell out, making it literally "rain cats and dogs."
4. "Dirt Poor"
This one is pretty simple: most floors used to be dirt. Anything other than dirt was reserved for society's wealthiest members. The people on House Hunters should remember this the next time they complain about a lack of hardwood floors.
Those who could afford it had floors made of slate. It'd get slippery when people tracked in snow during the winter. Since no one likes puddles in their living room, people would throw straw, or thresh, on the ground to prevent them from sliding around. Eventually, they began placing a piece of wood in their doorway to prevent the thresh from falling outside every time someone opened the door. That's how we got the term "threshold."
6. "Bring home the bacon."
Pork was a luxury, and some people would even hang it up to show it off when guests visited. Wealthy men were described as being able to "bring home the bacon." This is no longer a sign of wealth, and visitors will give you strange looks if you have meat hanging up in your house. Trust me.
7. "Chewing the fat."
When having guests over, it was customary to cut off a small portion to share with them. Everyone would then hang out and "chew the fat." Today, this means chatting and relaxing with someone.
8. "Upper Crust"
At dinner, people were served different parts of the bread based on their status. If you were a worker, you got the bottom that was usually burnt. The family who lived in the house ate from the middle, and visitors and guests were treated to the top, otherwise referred to as the "upper crust." Nowadays, "upper crust" is a term for high status.
9. "Saved by the bell."
Coffins and grave plots used to be reused when villages ran out of space. Unfortunately, when they opened coffins to remove the bones, about 1 in 25 had scratch marks inside, which means that they'd accidentally buried that person alive. Thus, strings were inserted into each coffin and attached to bells on the surface. If someone rung the bell from inside of a coffin they were considered "saved by the bell."
Via: Little Things