Back in 2014, I shared some fun info about how some very familiar sayings like “piss poor” and “throwing the baby out with the bath water” came about… supposedly sayings that originated from life in the 1500s.  It is always interesting to know where sayings came from and what they really meant.

I recently asked my crack team to do a little research to find more of these awesome little tidbits and was disappointed to learn that none of these were even true.  I’ve been believing and telling people these “facts” for years!  But Snopes, the go-to site for debunking myths, urban legends and ― in this case ― bogus origins of popular sayings, either debunked or clarified the origin of each saying.

The reality of these sayings is far less exciting, and I’m sure that is why the myths of their origins live on.  Either way, it was still good to know what they really mean and where they came from.  You can find the full Snopes report on the truth behind the origins here, but we have reposted my original “facts” below, along with a summarized version of Snopes’ detective work.

Why We Say “Piss Poor”

While people did once use pots instead of toilets, did this have something to do with why we say “piss poor”?

THE MYTH

Urine was once used to tan animal skins, so families would all pee in a pot and sell it to a tannery once it was full.  If you had to do this to survive you were “Piss Poor.”  But worse than that were the really poor folk who couldn’t even afford to buy a pot.  They “didn’t have a pot to piss in” and were the lowest of the low.


Since the first recorded use of the phrase “piss poor” wasn’t until 1946, the idea that it was derived from peeing in pots for the tanner is out of the question.  Considering this timeline, Snopes points out that “words having to do with excretory functions are routinely used in colloquialisms meant to communicate meanings of ‘little or no value.’”  Another example is this little gem “not worth a fragrant fart.”  Can’t you hear your grandfather saying something like that?  And “piss poor” just another example on this list.

 

Why Brides Carry Bouquets

Were bouquets really used for stinky brides? Snopes sniffed out the truth behind the origin of the wedding bouquet.

THE MYTH

Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May, and they still smelled pretty good by June.  However, since they were starting to smell, brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the body odor.­­­­  Hence the custom today of carrying a bouquet when getting married.


While people didn’t have the full-immersion baths we think of today (during this time, it was impractical to have such a large container of heated water), they did keep up on personal hygiene with whatever materials were available back then.  As for the flowers at weddings, they started simply as a symbol of fertility ― it had nothing to do with smell!

 

 

Throwing the Baby Out with the Bathwater

This phrase was supposedly meant to create a silly image, such as this one found in the German satirical work Narrenbeschwörung.  There is no evidence that this was derived from any literal sense of the phrase.  Thank goodness!

THE MYTH

Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water.  The man of the house had the privilege of the nice clean water, then all of the other sons and men, then the women and finally the children.  Last of all the babies.  By then the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it.  Hence the saying, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water!”


While this phrase did originate in the 1500s, it was a Germanic proverb not recorded in the English language until the 19th century.  The first recorded use of this phrase was by a German author in a satirical work.

 

 

It’s Raining Cats and Dogs

An old saying we’re all acquainted with, but where exactly did it come from? No one really knows!

THE MYTH

Houses had thatched roofs, thick straw piled high, with no wood underneath.  It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the cats and other small animals (mice, bugs) lived in the roof.  When it rained, it became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip and fall off the roof…  Hence the saying, “It’s raining cats and dogs.”


Snopes explains that although rodents and bugs most likely lived in these roofs, it was unlikely that cats and dogs did.  This article from the Library of Congress points out that no one really knows where this phrase comes from.  Beyond finding the first recorded use of the phrase in the work of an English poet during the 1600s (and who knows what people are trying to say in poetry), its origins are unknown.  The most likely story seems to be a symbol pulled from Norse mythology or an old Greek phrase.

While the original tidbits of information were, disappointingly, not true, they still make me laugh ― maybe even more now that I know someone went out of their way to create these clever stories.  Plus, it was fun to find the facts and set the record straight after all these years.

Back in 2014, I shared some fun info about how some very familiar sayings like “piss poor” and “throwing the baby out with the bath water” came about… supposedly sayings that originated from life in the 1500s.  It is always interesting to know where sayings came from and what they really meant.

I recently asked my crack team to do a little research to find more of these awesome little tidbits and was disappointed to learn that none of these were even true.  I’ve been believing and telling people these “facts” for years!  But Snopes, the go-to site for debunking myths, urban legends and ― in this case ― bogus origins of popular sayings, either debunked or clarified the origin of each saying.

The reality of these sayings is far less exciting, and I’m sure that is why the myths of their origins live on.  Either way, it was still good to know what they really mean and where they came from.  You can find the full Snopes report on the truth behind the origins here, but we have reposted my original “facts” below, along with a summarized version of Snopes’ detective work.

Why We Say “Piss Poor”

While people did once use pots instead of toilets, did this have something to do with why we say “piss poor”?

THE MYTH

Urine was once used to tan animal skins, so families would all pee in a pot and sell it to a tannery once it was full.  If you had to do this to survive you were “Piss Poor.”  But worse than that were the really poor folk who couldn’t even afford to buy a pot.  They “didn’t have a pot to piss in” and were the lowest of the low.

Since the first recorded use of the phrase “piss poor” wasn’t until 1946, the idea that it was derived from peeing in pots for the tanner is out of the question.  Considering this timeline, Snopes points out that “words having to do with excretory functions are routinely used in colloquialisms meant to communicate meanings of ‘little or no value.’”  Another example is this little gem “not worth a fragrant fart.”  Can’t you hear your grandfather saying something like that?  And “piss poor” just another example on this list.

Why Brides Carry Bouquets

Were bouquets really used for stinky brides? Snopes sniffed out the truth behind the origin of the wedding bouquet.

THE MYTH

Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May, and they still smelled pretty good by June.  However, since they were starting to smell, brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the body odor.­­­­  Hence the custom today of carrying a bouquet when getting married.

While people didn’t have the full-immersion baths we think of today (during this time, it was impractical to have such a large container of heated water), they did keep up on personal hygiene with whatever materials were available back then.  As for the flowers at weddings, they started simply as a symbol of fertility ― it had nothing to do with smell!

Throwing the Baby Out with the Bathwater

This phrase was supposedly meant to create a silly image, such as this one found in the German satirical work Narrenbeschwörung.  There is no evidence that this was derived from any literal sense of the phrase.  Thank goodness!

THE MYTH

Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water.  The man of the house had the privilege of the nice clean water, then all of the other sons and men, then the women and finally the children.  Last of all the babies.  By then the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it.  Hence the saying, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water!”

While this phrase did originate in the 1500s, it was a Germanic proverb not recorded in the English language until the 19th century.  The first recorded use of this phrase was by a German author in a satirical work.

It’s Raining Cats and Dogs

An old saying we’re all acquainted with, but where exactly did it come from? The truth is, no one really knows!

THE MYTH

Houses had thatched roofs, thick straw piled high, with no wood underneath.  It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the cats and other small animals (mice, bugs) lived in the roof.  When it rained, it became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip and fall off the roof…  Hence the saying, “It’s raining cats and dogs.”

Snopes explains that although rodents and bugs most likely lived in these roofs, it was unlikely that cats and dogs did.  This article from the Library of Congress points out that no one really knows where this phrase comes from.  Beyond finding the first recorded use of the phrase in the work of an English poet during the 1600s (and who knows what people are trying to say in poetry), its origins are unknown.  The most likely story seems to be a symbol pulled from Norse mythology or an old Greek phrase.

While the original tidbits of information were, disappointingly, not true, they still make me laugh ― maybe even more now that I know someone went out of their way to create these clever stories.  Plus, it was fun to find the facts and set the record straight after all these years.