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Medieval Words

"Caught you read handed" This phrase comes from the 12th Century practice of dipping a thief's hand in berry-dye. The dye would soak into the skin and stain the hand for several weeks and as such, serve as an act of public humiliation of being convicted. All who saw the 'red-handed' person knew he was a thief and a criminal.

"Corpse" Commonly used word meaning cadaver or dead body in modern times. However it stemmed from the 1400s when the Black Plague was rampant across Europe. The bodies were piled in a building called a "Corpselium" where they were treated and burned to prevent the spread of further infection.

"Throw down the gauntlet" Used widely today as a term of motivation, throwing down a gauntlet (the armored piece that protected the hands of a knight) was symbolic of challenging a contendor to a duel. Records indicate that the first "thrown down gauntlet" took place in 1462 when Sir William de Haverford literally threw his gauntlets and other pieces of armor on his lord's dining table in protest of unpaid wages.

"Bakers Dozen" we refer to '13' in Medieval times, bakers would often cheat the customer. Instead of wrapping the purchased dozen, bakers would often only sell 10 or less of an item. The problem became so bad that eventually laws were passed with strict punishments being enforced on bakers who cheated their customers. The penalties were so harsh that instead of the standard '12' in a dozen, bakers began inserting a 13th loaf or cake to ensure they were within the law.

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