This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Thing To Do Today: soap yourself.

Only dirty people wash.

In fact, only fairly modern dirty people wash.

Oh yes, all this washing is really quite new. 

People seem mostly to have stayed well clear of water, let alone soap, until Roman times, when bathing suddenly became hugely fashionable.

Mind you, Roman soap was made out of wood ash, so I'm not sure how good the baths were at actually getting people clean.

The Arabs brought proper soap to the West in mediaeval times, but the dread of water as a disease-carrying substance meant it wasn't used that much. Even the rich weren't that keen - Louis XIII of France, for example, had his second bath at the age of seven. Mostly, people got clean by rubbing themselves with a perfumed cloth.

By the 18th century this was thought to be slightly inadequate, so rich people kept "clean" by changing their clothes a lot.

Things finally changed once it was understood how disease spreads. It turned out that people had been quite right to distrust the water, but once that was sorted out people rather took to the whole splashing-it-all-over thing.

Some of the distrust lingered for a long time, though. I remember my grandfather washing his bad foot when he went to the doctor's - which was all right, until the doctor wanted to see the other (still dirty) one for comparison.

Now, however, we have heating and we can enjoy a good soapy splash.

Have fun!

Thing To Do Today: soap yourself. This word hasn't changed much for millennia, and both the Old High German form, seipfa and the Old French, savon, are very much like the original Latin sāpō.  

No comments:

Post a Comment