London Blog: Origins of Some Commonly Used Phrases

Anne Hathaway's Cottage

Anne Hathaway’s Cottage

During our visit to Anne Hatheway’s Cottage (the home of Shakespeare’s wife, not the actress who just won the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress for her role of Fantine in Les Mis) our guide told us the origins of some commonly used phrases while showing us around the kitchen. Now these phrases actually make sense!

  • a pinch of salt – instead of a salt shaker, a tiny bowl of salt would sit on the table and in order to put salt on your food you would need to pinch it between your fingers.
  • a cut above the rest – bread used to be cut horizontally and the hard bottom portion of the bread would be given to the children because they held the lowest position in the house. The man of the house would be given the best slice at the top of the loaf, or the upper crust, because he was the most important member of the family. Getting a “cut above the rest” meant you got the better slice of bread due to your higher position in the family.
  • pin money – extra spending money that women would make from doing “womanly” things.
  • chairman of the board – dining tables would have benches along either side of the table because chairs were expensive. The man of the house would get the lone chair at the head of the table making him the “chairman.”

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