View Full Version : humor

01-27-2009, 02:59 PM
When ever i do lectures I try to tell a funny story to loosen up the audience here are some interesting old sayings Its off subject here but It could pay off in your presentation :

Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May, and still smelled pretty good by June. However, they were starting to smell, so brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the body odor. Hence
the custom today of carrying a bouquet when getting married.
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 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 Bathwater..
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.
There was nothing to stop things from falling into the house.This posed a real problem in the bedroom where bugs and other droppings could mess up your nice clean bed. Hence, a bed with big posts and a sheet hung over the top afforded some protection.
That's how canopy beds came into existence.
The floor was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt. Hence the saying, Dirt poor. The wealthy had slate floors That would get slippery in the winter when wet, so they spread thresh (straw) on floor to help keep their footing. As the winter wore on, they added more thresh until, when you opened the door, it would all start slipping outside. A piece of wood was placed in the entranceway. Hence the saying a thresh hold..
In those old days, they cooked in the kitchen with a big kettle that always hung over the fire. Every day they lit the fire and added things to the pot. They ate mostly vegetables and did not get much meat. They would eat the stew for dinner, leaving leftovers in the pot to get cold overnight and then start over the next day.Sometimes stew had food in it that had been there for quite a while. Hence the rhyme,
Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old..

Sometimes they could obtain pork, which made them feel quite special. When visitors came over, they would hang up their bacon to show off. It was a sign of wealth that a man could, bring home the bacon. They would cut off a little to share with guests and would all sit around and chew the fat..

Those with money had plates made of pewter. Food with high acid content caused some of the lead to leach onto the food, causing lead poisoning death. This happened most often with tomatoes,so for the next 400 years or so,
tomatoes were considered poisonous.
Bread was divided according to status. Workers got the burnt bottom of the loaf, the family got the middle, and guests got the top, or the upper crust .

Lead cups were used to drink ale or whisky.. The combination would sometimes knock the imbibers out for a couple of days. Someone walking along the road would take them for dead and prepare them for burial. They were laid out on the kitchen table for a couple of days and the family would gather around and eat and drink and wait and see if they would wake up Hence the custom of holding a wake.

The local folks started running out of places to bury people. So they would dig up coffins and would take the bones to a bone-house, and reuse the grave. When reopening these coffins, 1 out of 25 coffins were found to have scratch marks on the inside and they realized they had been burying people alive. So they would tie a string on the wrist of the corpse, lead it through the coffin and up through the ground and tie it to a bell. Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night (the graveyard shift) to listen for the bell; thus, someone could be, saved by the bell. or was a..dead ringer..


mike lynch
01-27-2009, 03:40 PM
Enjoyed your post

Ross L. Lamoreaux
01-27-2009, 04:58 PM
Enjoyable but the only problem is the majority of those stories come from the Dark Ages and Europe and not the mid-Victorian period or America. Some of those "stories" have long been debunked by serious historians such as the yearly bath, not changing bath water between bathers, etc. That is just the kind of stuff that historical interpretors learn on the first day to NOT tell the public. As a matter of fact, 6 of those stories are blantantly and patently false. Thatched roofs pretty much ended in the 18th century in America, lead was not used to make cups - they were tin with lead solder on the seams, but not made entirely of lead. Pewter plate and pewterware was also on the wayside by the early 1800's in north America. Do yourself and the public that you talk to and rethink telling those "stories", because all you're doing is passing on myths.

Craig L Barry
01-27-2009, 05:35 PM
...That is what I was thinking, too. Read "Campfires of the Confederacy" if you want a few stories that were funny to people of the time. Some of the anecdotes are no longer humorous, some are quaint and others are still quite funny.

01-27-2009, 06:02 PM
I've often wondered about the people who write those "historical" jokes that get passed around endlessly on the internet and by email. Are they written by smart people who want to see how many gullible people they can fool? Or are they written by people who don't care about "life back then" and figure nobody else does either, so randomly making things up is fine, as long as you can get to a punchline? Regardless, if I was in the audience and someone started a history lecture with them, I'd assume he was either ignorant and gullible himself, or he thought we were, and either way, he'd immediately lose my respect.

Why not tell real period, relevant jokes, that show some originality and research?

Here's a military medical one that was adapted to numerous settings, the British navy (http://books.google.com/books?pg=PA542&dq=shot+%22told+me%22+head+leg+date:0-1880&lr=&id=bd0NAAAAQAAJ&as_brr=0&as_pt=ALLTYPES&output=html) as told in the 1860s, the Mexican War (http://books.google.com/books?pg=PA167&dq=shot+%22told+me%22+head+leg+date:0-1880&lr=&id=1CBMAAAAMAAJ&as_brr=0&as_pt=ALLTYPES&output=html) as told in the 1840s, or for our purposes, Second Bull Run (http://books.google.com/books?pg=PA167&dq=shot+%22told+me%22+head+leg+date:0-1880&lr=&id=1CBMAAAAMAAJ&as_brr=0&as_pt=ALLTYPES&output=html):

It was at the second battle of Bull Run that a cannon ball carried off a soldier's leg.
"Carry me to the rear!" he cried, to a tall Yankee companion who had been fighting by his side.
The Yankee caught the wounded soldier up, and as he was about to put him across his shoulders another cannon ball carried away the poor fellow's head. The Yankee, however, in the confusion did not notice this, but proceeded with his burden toward the rear.
"What are you carrying that thing for?" cried an officer.
"Thing!' returned the Yankee. "It's a man with his leg shot off."
"Why, he hasn't any head!" cried the officer.
The Yankee looked at his load, and for the first time saw that what the officer said was true. Throwing down the body, he thundered out: "Confound him! he told me it was his leg!"

Hank Trent

01-27-2009, 09:23 PM
That's awful! I love it!

Ross L. Lamoreaux
01-27-2009, 10:28 PM
I really do think I'll have to use the one about thatched roofs having no wood under them. I guess that thatch just stayed up there through suspended animation. I might throw in the fact that when you throw the baby out with the bath water, at least you would only lose one per year.

Craig L Barry
01-28-2009, 09:21 AM
...he told me it was his leg." Page 25, Campfires of the Confederacy. Must have been a joke used by both sides.

Another joke in a similar vein is the one about the Colonel who had the top of his head shot off by a cannonball. The surgeon took the man's brains out and was washing them in a bucket when a message came that the Colonel had been breveted to Brigadier General for his valor. Upon hearing this the man rose from the operating table and mounted his horse. The surgeon said with the top of the man's head still in his hands, "Sir, here you have forgotten your brains!" The former Colonel replied, "What need have I of brains, I am a Brigadier General now." (p. 35)

01-28-2009, 10:23 AM
There's a LOT of period artwork and "French" postcards out there of women bathing indoors and out. They managed. ;)

01-28-2009, 10:27 AM
Canopy Beds usually had curtains, privacy and warmth.

Linda Trent
02-01-2009, 11:23 PM
There are a lot of really good jokes in the Harper's Weekly (repro), and also in many early newspapers. I know our local library has all our local CW-era newspapers on microfilm.

I was amazed how many really good jokes there were out there. Here's one of my favorites from the Gallipolis [Ohio] Journal of Nov. 8, 1855. [punctuation and spelling of all three quotes below, as it appeared in the paper]

"I am glad to find you better," said John Hunter, the famous surgeon, to Foot, the equally famous actor, one morning, "You followed my prescription of course?"
"Indeed I did not, doctor," replied Sam, "for I should have broke my neck?"
"Broke your neck?" Exclaimed Hunter in amazement.
"Yes," said Foote, "For I threw your prescription out of a three story window."

Or not about medicine, but equally good was this one, also from the Gallipolis Journal same date.

Fit For A Lawyer -- An old lady walked into a lawyer's office lately, when the following conversation took place:
"Squire, I called here to see if you would like to take this boy and make a lawyer out of him."
"The boy appears rather young, madam. How old is he?"
"Seven years, sir."
"He is too young, decidedly, decidedly too young. Have you no older boys?"
"Oh, yes sir, I have several; but we have concluded to make farmers out of the others. I told my old man I thought this little fellow would make a first-rate lawyer, and so I called to see if you would take him."
"No, madam, he is too young yet to commence the study of a profession. But why do you think this boy so much better calculated for a lawyer than your other sons? What are his qualifications?"
"Why, you see, sir, he is just seven years old to-day. When he was only five, he would like like the devil; when he got to be six, he was as sassy and impudent as any critter could be, and now he will steal anything he can lay his hands on. Now if he's not fit for a lawyer, I would like to know what else he will have to learn?"
"A promising youth, decidedly a promising youth, madam."

Finally, this is one of my all-time favorites. From the Gallipolis Journal Jan. 2, 1862 (see, as I said, at least some newspapers have quite a bit of jokes in them. :p

"Tinton!" exclaimed an Irish sergeant to his platoon: "front face and tind to rowl call! As many of ye as are present say 'Here!' and as many of ye as are not present say 'Absint!'"

Well, there you have my favorites. As others have said, if our goal is to educate the public, let's educate the public and not continue to spread myths.


Jas. Cox
02-06-2009, 06:36 PM
Totally unrelated, but I am currently reading "The Knife Man" which is a fascinating book. One learns not only about modern surgery, but about the life and politics of the time surrounding the man. Albeit it's not our 19th century time period.

02-06-2009, 10:03 PM
Totally unrelated, but I am currently reading "The Knife Man" which is a fascinating book. One learns not only about modern surgery, but about the life and politics of the time surrounding the man. Albeit it's not our 19th century time period.

Irrelevant comment: When I first began reenacting, the real name of the Confederate "surgeon" I was assistant to, was John Hunter. I always thought that was funny, but he was so into the paramedic thing and had such minimal interest in historic medicine that I don't think he ever appreciated the significance.

Hank Trent