View Full Version : NFT:Interesting History Facts!

12-23-2004, 03:00 PM
I know I said I wouldn't be back until Aug 05, but this was too interesting not to share!

:thumb: :thumb:

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."


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 1700s, 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 term "minding your "P's and Q's."


One more: bet you didn't know this!

In the heyday of sailing ships, all war ships and many freighters carried iron cannons. Those cannons fired round iron cannon balls. It was necessary to keep a good supply near the cannon. However, how to prevent them from rolling about the deck? The best storage method devised was a square-based pyramid with one ball on top, resting on four resting on nine, which rested on sixteen. Thus, a supply of 30 cannon balls could be stacked in a small area right next to the cannon. There was only one problem...how to prevent the bottom layer from sliding or rolling from under the others. The solution was a metal plate called a "Monkey" with 16 round indentations.

However, if this plate were made of iron, the iron balls would quickly rust to it. The solution to the rusting problem was to make "Brass Monkeys." Few landlubbers realize that brass contracts much more and much faster than iron when chilled. Consequently, when the temperature dropped too far, the brass indentations would shrink so much that the iron cannonballs would come right off the monkey. Thus, it was quite literally, "Cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey." (All this time, you thought that was an improper expression, didn't you.)

You must send this fabulous bit of historic knowledge to unsuspecting friends. If you don't, your floppy is going to fall off your hard drive and kill your mouse.

"If you can read this, thank a teacher"

12-23-2004, 03:15 PM
Is all this stuff true? That is some interesting stuff.

12-23-2004, 03:23 PM

Claim: "Brass monkeys" were small brass plates used to hold cannonballs on the decks of sailing ships.
Status: False.

Example: [Collected on the Internet, 2001]

Every sailing ship had to have cannon for protection. Cannon of the times required round iron cannonballs. The master wanted to store the cannon-balls such that they could be of instant use when needed, yet not roll around the gun deck. The solution was to stack them up in a square based pyramid next to the cannon. The top level of the stack had one ball, the next level down had four, the next had nine, the next had sixteen, and so on. Four levels would provide a stack of 30 cannonballs. The only real problem was how to keep the bottom level from sliding out from under the weight of the higher levels. To do this, they devised a small brass plate ("brass monkey") with one rounded indentation for each cannonball in the bottom layer. Brass was used because the cannonballs wouldn't rust to the"brass monkey", but would rust to an iron one.
When temperature falls, brass contracts in size faster than iron. As it got cold on the gun decks, the indentations in the brass monkey would get smaller than the iron cannonballs they were holding. If the temperature got cold enough, the bottom layer would pop out of the indentations spilling the entire pyramid over the deck. Thus it was, quite literally, "cold enough to freeze the balls off a "brass monkey."

Origins: Somebody's
fanciful imagination is at work cooking up spurious etymologies again. In short, this origin for the phrase "cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey" is nonsense because:

Not even the venerable Oxford English Dictionary, records a usage of "brass monkey" like the one presented here.

When references to "brass monkeys" started appearing in print in the mid-19th century, they did not always mention balls or cold temperatures. It was sometimes cold enough to freeze the ears, tail, nose, or whiskers off a brass monkey. Likewise, it was sometimes hot enough to "scald the throat" or "singe the hair" of a brass monkey. These usages are inconsistent with the putative origins offered here.

Warships didn't store cannonballs (or "round shot") on deck around the clock, day after day, on the slight chance that they might go into battle. Space was a precious commodity on sailing ships, and decks were kept as clear as possible in order to allow room for hundreds of men to perform all the tasks necessary for ordinary ship's functions. (Stacking round shot on deck would also create the danger of their breaking free and rolling around loose on deck whenever the ship encountered rough seas.) Cannonballs were stored elsewhere and only brought out when the decks had been cleared for action.

Particularly diligent gunners (not "masters," who were in charge of navigation, sailing and pilotage, not ordnance) would have their crews chip away at imperfections on the surface of cannonballs to make them as smooth as possible, in the hopes that this would cause them fly truer. They did not leave shot on deck, exposed to the elements, where it would rust.
Nobody really knows where the phrase "cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey" came from, but the explanation offered here certainly isn't the answer.

Last updated: 9 January 2001

12-23-2004, 03:26 PM
Brass monkey! That funky monkey!

Brass Monkey junky! That funky monkey!

12-23-2004, 10:46 PM
Is all this stuff true? That is some interesting stuff.

It sure is!

Rain Man
12-24-2004, 11:54 AM
I must admit that I'm skeptical of many or most of these.

Skip Towne
12-24-2004, 12:02 PM
I must admit that I'm skeptical of many or most of these.
Me too.

12-24-2004, 12:06 PM
It's all crap. Good crap, but crap nonetheless.

Rain Man
12-24-2004, 12:26 PM
Me too.

I am not skeptical, however, of Skip's 22,000th post.