Frank Sidney’s letter (March 11) about the origins of some English sayings is obviously meant to be a joke.
He would have us believe that our ancestors were so obsessed with being buried alive that they supplied corpses with ropes attached to bells that they could ring if they weren’t really dead.
He goes on to claim this is the origin of the expression “dead ringers”, meaning look-alikes. Hilarious.
Just as funny is his suggestion that domestic animals, including dogs, lived in thatched roofs where they were washed in heavy rain – giving rise to the phrase “raining cats and dogs”. One can just about believe that mice might be in the roof and that cats could climb up after them, but why dogs?
The word “wake” means watch or vigil and has got nothing to do with corpses waking up; the “thresh” in threshold means tread or stamp, not threshings and “dirt poor” only dates from the time of the depression in America. As for someone being so poor that they don’t have a pot to pee in, common sense tells us that this is purely figurative and doesn’t have to be explained in terms of urine being collected for use in tanneries.