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Upper and lower crust

Posted by R. Berg on February 12, 2001

In Reply to: Histories Mysteries posted by Scott Marsden on February 12, 2001

: : I'm trying to fin the origin for a few sayings and stories that supposedly came from 14th or 15th century England.
: : Here are a couple... (if you can help me with any of these, please personally email me at
: : [email protected])

: : Did "graveyard shift" originate when scrach marks were found inside coffins that had been dug up, so they tied a string to the "dead" persons hand and lead it up to the surface. Someone had to stay there all night to see if they rang the bell?

: : "upper crust"
: : poor people were given the burnt bottom of bread, middle class was given the middle, and high class (upper class) was given the "uper crust" because it was considered the best part of the bread.

: I can't see this one. Isn't the middle of the bread the best part? When would members of the upper and lower classes have shared the same bread? I personally think it has more to do with the position of the crust at the top of the bread than anything else.

Evidence for the "bread" theory might come, for instance, if historians were to discover a time in the past when it was customary to slice bread horizontally. My guess is "upper crust" comes from pie, not bread, because people don't talk much about the lower crust on bread whereas both crusts are conspicuous features of a pie. The upper crust of a pie is above the rest of it; the upper crust of society is figuratively above everybody else. ("Lower crust" for a segment of society doesn't seem to be a set phrase at all.) Nor was I able to find any support for the undead-hand theory.