Oral history examples
Posted: 08 March 2011 05:54 PM   [ Ignore ]
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I have been thinking about oral history a lot lately as I have been examining the history of Xtianity and the culture it originated in.  So here are some relatively modern examples of how this process works.

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.’ (Artists know hands and arms are more difficult to
> paint)
>
> *******
> 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 1700’s, 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 and betting 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.)


gulp  gulp
>

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Posted: 08 March 2011 09:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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These sounds suspiciously like folk tales made up after the fact to fit the sayings. I’m not buying.

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Posted: 09 March 2011 04:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Enjoyed your post, Gary.  Those were great fascinating.  Do you have a source, or have you gathered those?
I can imagine there’s truth to most of them.  I’ve always been fascinated by how the language of trades became part of regular speech.

Blacksmithing:

Too many irons in the fire:
-To work efficiently a smith will work multiple pieces but if a piece of iron or steel lies in a coal fire too long it can melt, ignite, or become contaminated, so too many irons runs the risk of some of them failing.

Losing ones temper:
When forge tempering steel, the piece is hardened then carefully reheated to bring it to the proper hardness, or temper.  If overheated the steel becomes too soft, known as loosing it’s temper.

Some are obvious:
Going at it hammer and tongs.
Strike while the iron is hot.

A few phrases related to sailing:

By and far:
-As opposed to “near and by”. A skilled helmsman, when sailing close to the wind would be told to sail, “near and by”, holding the vessel as far up into the wind as possible.  Because sailing too close to the wind can allow the wind to get behind the sails, a less skilled helmsman would be told not to steer so close to the wind, or “by and far”

Taken aback:
-What happens when a less skilled helmsman tries to sail “near and by”.

Devil to pay:
-On wooden ships the “devil” is the joint between the keel and the first plank.  Paying a joint is filling it with fiber and hot tar.  To “Pay the Devil” involves trying to get hot pitch into this seam which would be almost directly overhead.  An older version was “The devil to pay and no pitch hot”.

Between the devil and the deep blue sea:
-See above.

I’m a only half-assed smith,and I’m not a sailor, so I know I’ve missed a bunch.  And carpenters, tailors, cobblers, farmers, really any trade, used phrases that made it into common speech.

I can see how people composing the bible could have used expressions that were common in their day and had an understood connotation.  I we don’t understand that connotation it would be easy to misinterpret the meaning of a passage.  I know the wealth oriented xians claim that getting a camel through the eye of a needle, rather then a statement of impossibility, was about getting a loaded camel through some well known narrow gate, called “the Needle”, in a certain city.  That smells a little fishy to me, but I’ll bet there are plenty.  I wonder if Bart Ehrman has written about this?

[ Edited: 09 March 2011 04:49 AM by Jeciron ]
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Posted: 09 March 2011 10:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Jericon;

The ones I posted were forwarded to me by a friend as jokes.  I think I can track down eventually the orginator and see how he came up with him.

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Posted: 09 March 2011 10:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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DarronS - 08 March 2011 09:40 PM

These sounds suspiciously like folk tales made up after the fact to fit the sayings. I’m not buying.

That is possibe, but in itself that is a method of creating oral history.  As for these particular stories, they sound plausable, and fit well within Crosan’s and Campbell’s approaches to the development of oral history.

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