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Remedies of The Past:
- The ‘Cock-Shocker’ – A Victorian remedy for impotence was an electrified belt with a ring on. I don’t suppose they were worried about impotence after that.
- Welsh Rarebit or Welsh Rabbit – In the 18th century, rumour has it, that the English believed the Welsh liked cheese so much that during a difficult birth they would make some cheese on toast and put it between the mother’s legs. Then the baby would smell the cheese and come straight out for a nibble. Quite why they thought the Welsh in particular liked cheese so much I have no idea.
- Female Hysteria – See The Wandering Womb.
- Victorian Haircare – In the early Victorian era people didn’t wash their hair they simply combed it out. Later on some began using rosemary water, a recipe from the 17th century.
- Tar – Victorians believed that tar had curative properties and doctors would give patients tar to drink, including children. This is mentioned in Dickens’ Bleak House as a tonic.
- Bedwetting – A 19th century cure for bedwetting was to boil a mouse, put it between two slices of bread and feed it to the patient.
- Teething – The Victorians used morphine to treat babies teething but gin would work as well. (This is not recommended)
Ye Olde Beliefs:
- Menstruation – In the Medieval period it was believed that menstruating women could kill people with a look.
- Peacock Feathers – In Britain it’s considered unlucky to take a peacock feather indoors, particularly if the peacock is still attached to it.
Slang Of Old:
- Rabbit – 18th century slang for baby and midwives were sometimes referred to as ‘rabbit-catchers’.
- Chuckaboo – Victorian slang for ‘special friend’.
- To Fuddle – To get drunk.
- Sausages – The nickname for observation balloons above the trenches during the First World War due to their shape.
- Penny Puzzle – In Victorian England sausages were sometimes known as penny puzzles or bags o’ mystery because no-one knew what was in them.
- Hussy – Originally an abbreviation of ‘housewife’ before it became an insult.
- Hot Cross Bun – During WW1 ‘hot cross bun’ was used to refer to Red Cross ambulances. In rhyming slang it can also mean ‘on the run’.
Origins Of Words And Phrases:
- A hardship – Comes from the naval punishment of keel-hauling where a sailor was dragged under the ship and therefore ‘suffered a hardship’.
- Brogue – Comes from the Gaelic and Irish ‘brōg’ which means ‘shoe’. A brogue was a type of flat heeled shoe commonly worn in Ireland and by the 18th century the English had started use it to refer to the Irish accent as well.
- The Ceiling Rose – The plaster surround of a ceiling light (and these days the fixture itself) are known as a rose because the rose was sacred to Harpocrates, the God of Silence. Therefore people would hang roses from the ceiling in rooms where they intended to meet guests to say whatever happened there wouldn’t leave the room. Kind of like Vegas.
- Red Letter Day – Comes from the Catholic Church where celebration days were marked on the church calendar in red.
- Doxy – Originally a term of endearment adapted from the Dutch docke (doll). It later came to mean a mistress or woman of ‘loose morals’. Doxy can also be used as an abbreviation of orthodoxy.
- Hamartophobia – The fear of sin or sinning.
- Noctivagation – Wandering around at night.
- Megalonisus – Often exaggerating.
- Victorian Corsets – A fashionable woman’s corset had eight panels and four stays and could take four inches off a woman’s waist without ‘tight-lacing’. Whereas a working woman’s corset had four panels and two stays and was simply designed to hold everything in place.
- Indicator Flaps – Originally car indictors were flaps but these had an unfortunate tendency to break off if passengers got out in a hurry so were eventually replaced with lights.
- Clocks – If a clockmaker couldn’t afford oil mucus used to be substituted. Yep, antique clocks are full of nose gunk.
- British Radio – In 1946 Woman’s Hour said ‘vagina’ on BBC radio and after an uproar had to refer to it as ‘birth-canal’ for years after.
- Nobel Prize – Nobel made his money in the dynamite industry.
- Paperweights – Glass paperweights didn’t appear until 1845.
- Church Incense – Incense was originally used in churches to deter bats.
- Frankenstein – There are two versions of the novel, both written by Mary Shelley. The original version from 1818 and a revised edition from 1831.
- Charles Dickens – Charles Dickens’ father went to debtor’s prison when Dickens was still a child and Dickens worked in a blacking factory. The fear of debt haunted him for the rest of his life.
- Tinnitus – Some forms of tinnitus can be recorded with a microphone.
- The Company of Wolves – During the filming of The Company of Wolves there were two wolves until on ate the other.