Brass Balls

Messages
706
Location
Boynton Beach FL.
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.." ************************************************************** 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 1700s, 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 wore a tightly tied lace, as in "straight laced." ************************************************************** 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 only 51 cards. 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: bet 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.) [Sleeping]
 
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357
Location
none
Alternative to P's and Q's. Early book printers had to work in mirror images. So a p was a q once printed. Hence typesetters had to mind their P's and Q's.
 
Messages
6,091
Location
northern Alabama
Nautical Terminology: Mind Your P's and Q's There are few of us who at one time or another have not been admonished to "mind our P's and Q's," or in other words, to behave our best. Oddly enough, "mind your P's and Q's" had nautical beginnings as a method of keeping books on the waterfront. In the days of sail when Sailors were paid a pittance, seamen drank their ale in taverns whose keepers were willing to extend credit until payday. Since many salts were illiterate, keepers kept a tally of pints and quarts consumed by each Sailor on a chalkboard behind the bar. Next to each person's name, a mark was made under "P" for pint or "Q" for quart whenever a seaman ordered another draught. On payday, each seaman was liable for each mark next to his name, so he was forced to "mind his P's and Q's" or he would get into financial trouble. To ensure an accurate count by unscrupulous keepers, Sailors had to keep their wits and remain somewhat sober. Sobriety usually ensured good behavior, hence the meaning of "mind your P's and Q's." Brass monkey is correct. I had never heard the straight laced one.
 
Messages
12,385
Location
Northern CA
The expression "balls out" is from running early governed engines at max speed. The governors were flyball governors, right out in plain sight. At max speed they would be out nearly horizontal. "Balls to the wall" is full throttle on old aircraft that had throttles that stuck through the firewall with ball shaped handles. For full power, you shoved the balls to the wall.
 
Messages
13,132
Location
By Detroit
In England they had a file called the Barstead file (named after someone in England). The Americans got hold of it and when the Brit. told them the name they figured it was just the Brittish accent and "corrected" it; hence our "b a s t a r d" file.
 
Messages
13,132
Location
By Detroit
Well I was close, but here it is, straight from "Audels Machinist and Tool Makers Handbook," 1953 reprint, footnote, page 183: Ques. What is a b a s t a r d file? Ans. A misnomer and nothing can be done about it. According to Raabe, the so-called b a s t a r d file was invented by an Englishman named Barsted. When English machinists came over and asked for Barsted files, the Americans naturally thought Barsted was the English pronunciation for b a s t a r d. By definition: A file between coarse and second cut.
 
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