April 3

Again, How Did It Begin?

Posted by lori . 17 Comments

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How Did It Begin Book

Last November, I did a post called How Did It Begin? The information came from the book How Did It Begin by Dr. R. & L. Brasch. Since I’m spring cleaning, it’s time for this book to move on and off my bookshelf, so let’s have one more round of “how did it begin.”

Blue for Boys and Pink for Girls

A long time ago, it was believed that evil spirits hovered menacingly over the nursery, but certain colors offered protection, the most potent being blue. The color’s association with the heavenly sky rendered satanic forces powerless and drove them away. As girl babies were regarded as vastly inferior to male infants, it was assumed that evil spirits would not be interested in them. This explains blue for boys, but offers no explanation for pink. Pink for girls may come from the European tradition that says baby boys are found under cabbages while baby girls are found inside pink roses.

The White Elephant

A white elephant typically describes a gift that is a nuisance and gives more trouble than joy. The white elephant gift traces its origins back to ancient Siam where the rare albino elephants were worshiped and allowed to lead idle lives. To own a white elephant contributed greatly to the sanctity of one’s home, but it also added to the household expenses. The ancient rulers of Siam, when anxious to get rid of a courtier who had lost favor or become too influential, didn’t dismiss them, but instead honored them by presenting them with the most sacred and precious gift–a white elephant. The courtier had to accept it and the upkeep often took care of the courtier’s wealth and power.

Blackmail

Today, blackmail is associated with illegal extortion, but the original meaning wasn’t as dark. It started in Scotland hundreds of years ago. Most of the land was owned by the English who charged high rents to the Scots. This was known as mail, the Scottish term for rent and taxes. The payment was to be made in silver which was referred to as white mail, but many times the farmers could not raise the money in which case the English landlords agreed to take produce in lieu of silver. These goods became known as black mail. Over the years, dishonest agents took advantage of the farmers and demanded more money than was owed, often backing their demands with threats. This resulted in the term deteriorating into meaning payment extorted by intimidation.

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