Light-hearted historical trivia
This summer Carol and I are celebrating our 51st wedding anniversary, and I decided that I 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. As I first heard and read the statements, they were filled with incorrect information so I did a little “lookin’ up” to get as close to the truth as I could. Relax and enjoy life. Specifically, enjoy life as you live for the Lord.
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. 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 south, 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 he capitalized the word “Creek” it is deduced that he was referring to a potential Creek Indian uprising, and not a 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 showed 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 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.”
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 an extension of primarily British society. Wealthy and influential people could afford more realistic and larger wigs. 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 in the 13th century and means “table” — such as “God’s borde,” or “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, or government.
Here’s one more.
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 eight years later, they printed what they said was Nelson’s actual words at the time: [Putting the field glass to his blind eye] “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.