“Now Where Did That Come From?”

Have you ever wondered where various terms used in everyday language have come from. Terms such “he is a member of the upper crust” or “he was given the cold shoulder”? Almost 21 years ago my wife and I on a visit to Stratford upon Avon in England visited some of homes that have been associated with the lives of Anne Hathaway and William Shakespeare and on a tour of at least one of the homes some the origins of some of these meanings were explained to us.

A member of the “Upper Crust” was a favoured person who was given preference when visiting a home and supplied with bread from cut from the top of the home cooked bread. During the baking of the bread the bottom of the loaf would often be burnt and therefore not so pleasant to eat. So the theory goes that that was how the term came about. But perhaps, just perhaps there may be a simpler meaning. It could just be that perhaps the “member of the upper crust” may have just risen to the top just as the upper crust of bread has risen to the top.

Now at this time of the year, my wife often gives me a slice of the “cold shoulder”. Not that I have been bad or anything but according to our guide back in Stratford upon Avon the origin of this saying is attributed to the fact that not all visitors to the household were welcome but were expected to be fed. It may have been that the family had already eaten when the visitor had called but to feed them they would get out the roast that they had cooked previously for their meal and slice of a piece from the cold shoulder. Hence the term was used to signify an unwelcome guest. I guess that is a plausible explanation for the origin of that terminology.

Now we have all heard of the term “Bed and Board” often used to describe a place where one may stay the night or longer whilst travelling, especially in places such as the UK where B & B’s are very popular. The origin of B & B’s are said to come from the fact that tables often consisted of a board set up between to trestles. After the end of the evening meal all the remaining food and utensils were cleared from the board and the board then turned over to reveal the clean unmarked or unstained side and the table then became a bed for any visitor to the household.

Have you ever had a “frog in your throat”? This term has been used to describe either a sore throat or a tickle in the back of the throat. According to our guide at the time, back in the days of Shakespeare medical practitioners would obtain a frog and tie its back legs together and dangle down in your mouth. The frog would then excrete a substance into your mouth which supposedly would relieve the irritation that you may have been suffering.

Now that is all food for thought. There more of such sayings which I may keep for a later date. In the meantime be good and be careful over the Christmas period. As this is the final column before Christmas I wish you all a merry Christmas everyone. (I do dislike the Americanism “Happy Holidays”)

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