Monday, May 19, 2014


Did you know the saying "God willing and the Creek 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 Creek don't rise." Because he capitalized the word "Creek" 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'.
I hope you enjoy these things as much as I do! 

Have a great Week...



sue hanes said...

Z - I like the one that says - "God willin' and the Creek don't rise." I never would guess where that came from.

Have a great day.

Impertinent said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Impertinent said...


"men and women took baths only twice a year (May and October) "...

I thought it was only once a year and in May...hence the reason for June brides because by that time the brides were clean!? And the grooms too...LOL

What a great's amazing to see and learn how common sayings, phrases and habits morphed into our current use and vernacular. I wonder what words or phrases / slang of today will make it the next 100 or two hundred years and remain in use?

Duckys here said...

Much better over the morning omelet and coffee than politics.

Some interesting stuff.

Constitutional Insurgent said...

Thanks for posting these, I didn't realize the Creek referred to the tribe.

christian soldier said...

Love them!! (-:

Always On Watch said...


Z said...

I'm glad you all enjoyed these; I really love to know where expressions come from.

If anybody has any to add, let us know!

Dave Miller said...

I had just heard recently about the Creek reference... great post Z.......

I think I heard that the saying Wet your Whistle had to do with wetting a scythe during harvest so it would not whistle when it cut crops... and of course, when they did that, they took a swig at the same time...

Are new sayings still being made up like these, or is that age past?

Law and Order Teacher said...

I, too, love the beginnings of old sayings. I recently was doings research on my family. They hail from Switzerland and settled in Lancaster county, Pa., home of the Conestoga Wagon. I've done research on these wagons and it's interesting.

First, they were able to haul up to 6 tons of cargo. The wagons had no seats, so these first "teamsters" who delivered cargo would sit on the left side lead horse nearest the wagon. This set up the American practice of driving on the right side of the road and steering from the left.

The horses were outfitted with bells on their harnesses to warn oncoming wagons. The teamsters wanted to arrive at their destination as quickly and safely as possible. However, sometimes the road would stop them requiring they ask other teamsters for help.

Tradition dictated that they give their harness bells to their helper. Therefore, all teamsters wanted to "be there with bells on."

The teamsters were a rough bunch who lived on the road chancing Indian or animal attacks. They were known to smoke cheaply made cigars sometimes up to a foot long, mostly to keep their mouth closed in order to keep from inhaling bugs and also it curbed their thirst. These cigars were forever known as "stogies", named in honor of the teamsters and their wagons.

Loved your post!

Bob said...

Horse feathers! I don't believe a word of it.

'mind your own bee's wax.'
Oh, come on. You know that's phonetically related to "mind your own business".

Z said...

Law and Order, I'm so glad; and thanks for that great input!

Bob.."Horse feathers!?" Where did THAT come from, right? :-)

Fredd said...

Anyone who has visited Big Bend National Park in Texas knows of Judge Roy Bean.

Back in Roy's day, many murders were committed by husbands beating their wives to death with big pieces of fire wood.

Because Judge Bean was such a caring, kindly soul, he decreed that hence forth, to keep the deaths of women down to reasonable levels, men were only allowed to beat their wives with branches no thicker than that of a thumb, hence 'the rule of thumb.'

Kid said...

WWII fighter planes .50 caliber ammunition belts were 27 feet long, hence the phrase "I gave him the whole 9 yards" when a pilot used all his ammo on an individual target.

A Brass Monkey was a flat square chunk of brass with indentations in it that just fit cannonballs and was placed near the cannons on the old wooden warships. The cannonballs would be stacked on this in the shape of a pyramid. When it got cold enough, the brass would shrink and the balls were no longer well supported and would sometimes roll off in a libtardlike fashion - hence, Cold enough to freeze the balls of a brass monkey.

Z said...

Kid: I laughed out loud with the "in a libtard fashion" which was NOT on this description of monkey balls :-)
Actually, I cut the balls one off my list (pardon the pun) because well...I figured let a guy include that one !! I swear!

Fredd...very good ones!

By the way, Law and Order..come by and let me know when you have a new post, will you? I keep looking and so far, no good! Save me the minute!! Smile!

Law and Order Teacher said...

Only a woman would include "cut the balls off" in a sentence. Yikes!!

I'm a very proud member of the American Legion and even more proud that they've been all over the betrayal of veterans by the government. I'm cooking something up about that and will write it in a couple of days. I've lazy for a while. Thanks for your encouragement.

Impertinent said...

How about..."up the creek without a paddle"?

Z said...

Imp: I think "up a creek without a paddle" is just that: up a small river without anything to move you....more clearly defined than the ones in my post, you see?

Law and Order; If I can encourage another great post out of you, I'll be happy.
And I'd love to hear your take on the vets situation and the American Legion.

I'm very curious about Shinseki and I back/forth on whether he should go.
When I heard Obama was briefed on this in 2008 and promised to do something and hasn't, I knew Shinseki must have known, too, and I think I'm on the Legion's side about him now; he has to go.

Also, I don't want to offend ANY of my fantastic military vets here at geeeZ, but I'm a little weary of people saying they think "heroes" should not be criticized because they served our country. MANY people we probably wouldn't respect were in the armed services..drafted, enlisted, whatever.
If someone is respectable and serviced his/her country, MORE POWER TO THEM, but we shouldn't think a 'hero' needs to stay if he's NOT done a good job just because he's a

Impertinent said...


I had to look it up. It referred to sailors and / or the wounded in battle being removed from ships and transported up a river to a hospital or burial...hence they're up the creek without a paddle...more or less.

And I agree with the sentiments expressed in your last paragraph and sentence. Thanks.

Duckys here said...

Sleep tight -- refers to a time when mattresses were supported by rope and had to be tightened every so often.

It’s raining cats and dogs -- refers to the dirty streets of England in the 17th and 18th centuries. It would rain so hard that dead dogs and cats would be washed around the streets.

Z said...

thanks, Ducky...good ones.
But I may never say "raining cats and dogs again!"...what an image.

Imp; maybe it's just me; feels like 'up a creek without a paddle' is pretty clear just as it is.

Baysider said...

Ah, these are fun! Kid picked my favorite! But I also like Don't throw the baby out with the bath water. It comes from the day when a family heated one tub of water, and people bathed serially, typically from oldest to youngest.

My mother grew up in such a home. Bath water was heated once a week on a wood-fired stove. The first in had to be a little tough - it was hot! Her mom would add more as bathers changed. But the last one got the murkiest water. And that was the youngest and smallest. Hence - don't throw the baby out with the bath water.

Impertinent said...

"Like I said, they took their yearly bath in May, but it was just a big tub that they would fill with hot water. The man of the house would get 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 pretty thick. Thus, the saying, "don't throw the baby out with the bath water," it was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it.

Although the admonition against throwing the baby out with the bathwater dates back to the 16th century, its roots are Germanic, not English.

Its first written occurrence was in Thomas Murner's 1512 versified satirical book Narrenbeschwörung, and its meaning is purely metaphorical. (In simpler terms, no literal babies or bathwater, just a memorable mental image meant to drive home a bit of advice against overreaction.)"

Impertinent said...

The saying it's raining cats and dogs was first noted in the 17th century, not the 16th. A number of theories as to its origin exist:

By evoking the image of cats and dogs fighting in a riotous, all-out manner, it expresses the fury of a sudden downpour.

Primitive drainage systems in use in the 17th century could be overwhelmed by heavy rainstorms, leading to gutters overflowing with debris that included dead animals.

In Northern European mythology, it is believed cats influence the weather and dogs represent wind.

The saying might have derived from the obsolete French word catadoupe, meaning waterfall or cataract.

It might have come from a similar-sounding Greek phrase meaning "an unlikely occurrence."

Rita said...

Funny I used that expression on here a couple weeks ago talking with Imp, I believe.

But growing up, I lived next to a crick, not a creek. So it was "God willing and the crick don't rise" in my house. One of many of my mother's sayings she still uses to this day.

I say creek when I'm talking about any other small stream, but I still say crick when I'm talking about the one I grew up next to.