I thought I’d follow up last week’s blog of New Years myths with a few tidbits of historical trivia.
Many things are going on in the world today and we tend to get tense, worried, and cynical. But I think we need to “lighten up” … for at least a week. Also, I think humor is appropriate since Proverbs 17:22 says “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength” (NLT). So, here is some light-hearted trivia that I found many years ago. When I first read them, it looked like some had incorrect information so I did a little “lookin’ up” to get as close to the truth as I could. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the next five minutes.
Have you heard the saying “God willing and the creek don’t rise”? Some folk have a picture of an uncrossable stream or creek rising during a torrential downpour – especially with all the flooding happening in parts of the world today. However, there is one small error in that quote. The statement was written by Benjamin Hawkins, a politician and Indian diplomat in the early 1800s. While on the job in the southern USA, Hawkins was requested by President Thomas Jefferson to return to Washington D.C. and give a report about what was happening. His response was, “God willing and the Creek don’t rise.” Because of his job, and the fact that he capitalized the word “Creek,” it is deduced that he was referring to a potential Creek Indian uprising, and not a flooded 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 show him standing behind a desk with one arm behind his back, while others showed both legs and both arms. In fact, many paintings show people with arms or legs out of sight. That’s because prices were based on how big the canvas was, how many objects (things and people) were to be painted, and by how many fingers, hands, arms, legs, and feet were to be painted. Arms and legs are more difficult to paint, therefore painting them raised the price considerably. This is one probable origin of the expression, “It’ll cost you an arm and a leg.” By the way, that’s why many (if not most) cartoons show the characters with only three fingers and a thumb. Omitting the fourth finger reduced the production costs.
In centuries past, personal hygiene was not understood, and people didn’t bathe very often, which aided in the profusion of lice. Therefore, many women and most men in the European higher social strata shaved their heads because of lice and bugs, then wore wigs. This continued in colonial America – which, of course, was primarily an extension of British society. Wealthy and influential people could afford to buy larger wigs – and they did. Today we still use the term “He’s a big wig” because someone appears to be, or is, powerful and wealthy.
You might have heard various stories about the origin of “chairman of the board.” Well, some of the stories are flakey, but this is probably correct. The word “chair” infers sitting in the chair, or seat of authority (at times, perhaps the only chair while others sat on benches), and “board” (as we know it) was first heard of in the 13th century spelled borde, and means “table” – such as “God’s borde” (meaning “the Lord’s table.”) A mother’s call to the family was: “Mi bord is maked. Cumed to borde.” – meaning, “The table is set [for a meal]. Come to the table.” Also, people pay a fee or rent for “room and board” – sleeping quarters and food at the table. So, chairman of the board would be the person in charge at the table where business is conducted: be it church, industry, restaurant, or government.
Here’s one more. Have you heard the phrase, “turn a blind eye” in a situation?
In the naval battle of Copenhagen in 1801, British Admiral Horatio Nelson (who was blind in one eye) lead the attack against a joint Danish/Norwegian flotilla. The British fleet was commanded by Admiral Sir Hyde Parker. Sensing defeat, Parker sent a signal for Nelson to disengage, but Nelson was convinced he could win if he persisted. In Clarke and M’Arthur’s biography, Life of Nelson, published around 1809, they printed what they said was Nelson’s actual words at the time: [Putting the field glass to his blind eye and addressing his assistant] “You know, Foley, I have only one eye – and I have a right to be blind sometimes. I really do not see the signal.” So, turning a blind eye to Admiral Parker’s order, Nelson proceeded to defeat the enemy.
Thank you for reading, and I hope you have a pleasant week.