Friday, August 31, 2012



As most people know, this phrase means "to die."  It already meant that all the way back in 1785, when it was published in the Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.  Nobody really knows where the phrase came from, but of course that doesn't keep people from making up theories.  So here are some of those theories:

Theory #1:  People "kick the bucket" out from under themselves if they are committing suicide by hanging.  Or if one person is hanging another person, they might kick the bucket out from under them.  But this doesn't seem like a very good theory because if you were only standing on a bucket, you wouldn't fall very far, but I guess if the rope was short enough, and your feet didn't touch the floor, you would still strangle to death.

Theory #2:  In the old days, at Catholic wakes, there was a bucket sitting at the feet of the dead person, and this bucket had holy water in it.  But nobody kicked this bucket.  They just sprinkled the water on the body when they came to pray.

Theory #3:  The best theory is that back in the 16th century, the word bucket also meant a beam or yoke that was used to hang or carry things.  The French word trébuchet, which means "a balance," is likely where the English word bucket came from.  When animals such as pigs were being killed, they were hung up by their feet, and then their throats got slit.  While they were dying, they probably kicked the beam they were tied to, and so they "kicked the bucket."  I don't like to think about this, but I'm just telling you, in the interest of linguistics, where this phrase might have come from.


If you get a sunburn, your skin might desquamate afterwards.  This is a medical word, and it means "to come off in scales," "to shed," or "to peel off."  It seems to always be used to talk about skin, and never about anything else such as onion peels or fish scales.  The word came into the English language in the 18th century.  It was a combination of the Latin desquamare which meant "to scale off" with squama which meant "a scale."


A person who is punctilious likes to make sure that everything is done exactly right, even the smallest details.  I guess this might be important if you are having a ceremony or a formal dinner or something, but it just seems kind of anal to me!


Back in the old days, if you stopped at an inn for the night, the hostler was the man who took care of your horses.  The word is from Middle English, about 1350-1400, and it was a variation of hosteler.

That meaning is pretty much archaic, but the job of hostler got updated, and now it is somebody who takes care of trains, buses, and other such vehicles after their regular runs.  The hostler moves the vehicles and large equipment, and does maintenance work on it.


I am not making this up.  It really is a word, and what it means is "fear of long words."  Hahahaha!  But if you are a little scared by its length, you can just say sesquippedaliophobia, and that means the exact same thing!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


During the Civil War, there was a woman named Emeline Pigott, and she lived in North Carolina.  Right before the war started, she and her parents moved to a farm at Crab Point, on the North Carolina coast.  At that time, Ms. Pigott was 25 years old.

Right across the creek from the farm were the soldiers of the 26th North Carolina, and it was their job to guard the coast and make sure the Yankees didn't come there.  Ms. Pigott decided she should help the troops in any way she could, so she became a nurse for the ones that were sick or wounded.  Sometimes she even brought them to her house to nurse them.  Another thing she did was she went around to the counties that were close by, and she collected lots of stuff the soldiers needed, such as food, clothes, medicine, and mail.  Then she put these things in hollow logs or trees, for the soldiers to come and get.

Pretty soon, Ms. Pigott was also acting as a spy for the Confederates.  She would invite Union soldiers to her house for dinners or parties, and she would try to find out what their plans were.  Then she reported this information to the rebel troops.  Also she took them any information that she got from fishermen who sold fish to the Yankee Navy.

The way that Ms. Pigott smuggled a lot of stuff through the Union lines was she hid it in really big pockets under her hoop skirts.  By the time she loaded up all the mail and reports and everything else into her pockets, she was sometimes carrying 30 pounds of weight.  Of course, there is a lot of space under a hoop skirt to hide things, but it seems like it would be hard to walk in any normal way with 30 pounds of secret stuff under there.

One time General Pierre Gustave T. Beauregard was waiting for Ms. Pigott to bring him some important information about what the Union troops were up to.  When she arrived at his camp, she had a fat little dog with her.  The general petted the dog while Ms. Pigott told him what a hard time she had sneaking the report through enemy lines because she had been thoroughly searched.  Then she asked to borrow his knife, and he was shocked when she stabbed her little dog in the side!  But the dog did not even yelp.  He just kept wagging his tail.  Ms. Pigott cut away the dog's skin, and it turned out to be a fake outer coat of fur.  The report was hidden under there, and it was safely delivered to General Beauregard.

In early 1862, the rebel soldiers left the coast and moved up the river to the town of New Bern.  On March 14, 1862, the Battle of New Bern was fought, and the Union won.  The townspeople had already left, and the Confederate troops retreated 40 miles inland by train.  Emeline Pigott went with the soldiers on the last train, so that she could nurse the wounded.

Ms. Pigott and a soldier named Stokes McRae fell in love, and they decided they would get married when the war was over.  But sadly, Mr. McRae got killed at Gettysburg in July 1863.  After that, Emeline Pigott worked even harder for the rebel cause.  She and her brother-in-law, Rufus Bell, kept delivering supplies to Confederate troops.  In 1865, they were stopped on the road to Beaufort by Union soldiers.  The soldiers were gentlemen, so they sent for a woman to search Ms. Pigott.  While she was waiting to be searched, she managed to eat some of the papers she was carrying and shred others.  But she still had a lot of stuff in the pockets under her hoop skirt.

The very buggy that Emeline Pigott and Rudy Bell
were in when they were stopped by Union soldiers.
Because of this, Ms. Pigott was sent to prison and given the death penalty.  But after two months, she was released.  No one knows why they let her out, but the soldiers who guarded her said she was a lot of trouble.  Even after she got out of jail, the Union soldiers keep watching and harassing her.

After the war, Ms. Pigott went back to live at the family farm, and she never married.  She loved to tell stories about all her adventures during the war, but she never told anyone how she managed to get out of jail.  She died when she was 80 years old, on May 26, 1916, and she was buried in the family cemetery.

Sunday, August 26, 2012


On Friday night Mom went to Art Unleashed, which I have told you about before because it happens every single year.  It's a big fundraiser deal for the Humane Society of Greater Kansas City, and Mom likes to go there and buy artwork that we don't really have room for on our walls.  Aunt LaDene usually goes there, too, because she likes to look at all the artwork, but she doesn't ever buy anything.  I can't explain this, but I guess it doesn't matter, since nobody asked me to explain it.

Anyway, Mom really liked a couple of photos that were taken in Peru by the same person, and Mom ended up buying both of them.  One of the photos has a dog in it, and this dog is sleeping on an ancient stone that was put there by the Incas.

We don't know if this dog has a home or if it is just a dog that wanders the streets, looking for food.  When Mom was in Peru, she saw lots of street dogs.  Maybe some of them get fed regular meals by people, but there are a lot who have to find food on their own.  Which I think is a very sad state of affairs because I have personally been out on the streets, trying to find food, and I can tell you that it's not easy.

The other photo from Peru is the face of an alpaca.  In case you don't know about alpacas, they are in the same family as camels and llamas. The are smaller than llamas, and they have really nice hair that you can make sweaters and blankets and all sorts of things out of.

Mom also bought two little paintings that are called "doodles."  They are only 5" or 6" square.  Mom bought one that has a black-and-white dog on it, which is the best color for dogs, as I have mentioned before.

The other "doodle" has a cat, but this cat is very strange-looking, in my opinion.  It only seems to have two legs and a tail.  I don't know why Mom would buy something that doesn't even look like a real cat, but Mom thinks it's cute, and anyway she only paid $5 for it.

When Mom was hanging pictures up today, she was shocked to find some great big cracks in the walls and ceiling of our house.  The reason why we have these is because of The Drought, which makes the foundation of the house do strange things.  I am worried that the whole house will crack apart and fall down on us and kill us, but Mom said that is not very likely.  I really hope she's right about that!

Friday, August 24, 2012


Mom actually has two new sponsored children, but she has been so busy with the conventions and stuff that she hasn't had time to write to them or learn anything much about them.  But now Mom's first Big Project after the convention is to write letters to all her sponsored kids.

Anyway, today I am going to tell you about Ximena, who is 11 years old.  She lives in Bolivia in the Altiplano, which means "high plain" in Spanish.  The Altiplano is a plateau area in the Andes Mountains.  There is a huge lake in the Altiplano, and it is called Lake Titicaca, which is a really fun word to say.  Nobody knows exactly what "titicaca" means.  It is a combination of words from two local languages, Quechua and Aymara.  One possible translation is "rock puma."  The native people think the lake has the shape of a puma hunting a rabbit. Frankly, I don't see this, but I will take their word for it.  Another translation of "titicaca" is "crag of lead."

Lake Titicaca is the largest lake in South America, if you go by volume of water.  The average depth of the lake is 351 feet.  Titicaca is also called the highest navigable lake in the world, meaning that even big, commercial boats can go there because of how deep the water is.

Ever since 2000, Lake Titicaca has been shrinking.  It is now down to its lowest level since 1949.  The reasons for this are that the rainy seasons have been shorter, and also the glaciers that would usually feed the lake have been melting.

Ximena and her family live near a small city named Achacachi, which is another fun word to say.  The people in this region speak Aymara, but most of them also speak Spanish.  Long ago, before the Spaniards came, Achacachi was the capital of the Aymara Empire.  When the Conquistadores got there, the Aymara fought very fiercely, and even though they got conquered, they at least won the right to keep speaking their native language.

The Achacachi area is 12,644 ft. above sea level, and the climate is mostly cold, with temperatures between 28º and 59º F.  The land is flat, and it's dry because there isn't much rain.

Ximena's parents are farmers.  They have cattle and maybe some sheep, and they probably grow potatoes and fodder crops to feed the animals.  At least that's what the other people in that area grow.  Maybe they also have some llamas, but when Ximena wrote to Mom, she just mentioned "cattle."  When you look at pictures of the altiplano, you wonder how anybody can grow anything there.  But maybe it's different in the rainy season.

Ximena and her mom
Anyway, Ximena has a brother, and her family lives in an adobe house with an earth floor and a cement roof.  I have been trying to figure out why anybody would make a roof out of cement and then put it on top of adobe walls.  Finally, after I saw some photos, I decided that maybe the roof is made of tiles, and the translation has the wrong word.  The family cooks over a fire, and they burn animal dung for fuel.  Their latrine is a hole dug in the ground.  They can get water from a pipe in the compound, and that means they don't have to walk long distances to bring water from a river or stream.  Which is a good thing.

There is a school nearby, and Ximena is in the 6th grade.  After school, she helps with the farm work.  It takes 45 minutes to get to the nearest health facility.  The information sheet did not say if this facility has a doctor or just a nurse or what.  Also, they don't say if the 45 minutes is on foot or by bus or on some other type of vehicle.  If I knew more, I would tell it to you, but I don't, so I won't.

Mom has been to Bolivia before, and she would like to go again because she thought it was a very interesting place.  Also, she wants to go to Peru again because she really liked seeing Machu Picchu.  Mom thought the worst part about going there was trying to get used to the altitude.  It took several days for her to adjust, even with altitude sickness tablets.  And after that, she still got really tired every time she tried to climb a lot of steps or walk uphill.

That's all I can tell you about Ximena right now.  I wish I knew if she has a dog, but that important information somehow got left out of the sponsorship packet.  Maybe Ximena will tell us in a letter sometime whether she has a dog or not.  I really hope she does!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

ME! ME! ME! by Jason, the cat

The world is full of so much fascinating feline subject matter, and yet for some reason, Piper continues not to put it in her blog.  I just don't know what she could be thinking!  Anyway, in an effort to get a little more equal representation, I have taken over the writing of today's entry.  Of course, I first had to decide which feline topic would be the most interesting to write about, and after giving it a bit of thought, I realized the answer was obvious:  ME!

I will begin by telling you that I turned one year old on June 22.  But did anyone throw a big party for my birthday?  NO!  And why not?  Because Mom was at that stupid cactus conference, and I was locked up in a cage at Dr. Patricia's office.  I was downright disgusted by this development.  Mom says she will make it up to me next year, but I am not holding my breath!

Anyway, I'm not a kitten anymore.  I'm an adult cat, and I weigh 8 pounds!  This is lots less than Chloe and Charlie weigh, but Mom says it is a perfectly respectable weight, and besides, I might still "fill out" a little more.

I have a lot of important roles to play around the house, and one of them is to be a big brother to all the foster kittens that come through here.  Some of these kittens are really little when they arrive, and they think I am some kind of big, scary monster.  Mom doesn't like it if I play too roughly with them, and sometimes she makes me stop.  But it doesn't take long for them to grow up and get big enough to be a lot of fun.

Here I am intimidating Wyatt!

In fact, it's a good thing I have kittens around to play with because Chloe and Charlie are not too much into playing.  Chloe will let me chase her sometimes, and she'll even wrestle a little, but mostly she likes for us to just cuddle and groom each other.

I really like cuddling with Chloe because she's very soft and warm.  We sleep together on Mom's bed almost every night, but in the summer we don't sleep as close together because it's too hot.  Chloe and I are BFFs, which stands for Best Feline Friends.

Charlie lets me cuddle with him sometimes, but not as much as Chloe does.  Some of the kittens we've had here are pretty cuddly, and of course they are very playful.  Sometimes they seem to think I am a mama cat, and they start looking for a milk spigot.  But so far they haven't found one!

Here I am playing with Ingram,
that black kitten with the stubby tail.

I'll tell you who's not very cuddly, and that is Latifa.  Maybe Piper told you about her.  She is that little black cat who came here with her two kittens that she was nursing.  Latifa was very growly and hissy towards all of us at first, and Mom thought it was because she was trying to protect her kittens.  After a while, the kittens got adopted, and then we were just waiting for Latifa's milk to dry up so she could get spayed.

But meanwhile, she started smelling VERRRRRY interesting to me.  I followed her around and sniffed her girl parts a lot, but she didn't like that.  Except that finally she decided she did like it.  And then she let me get on top of her and wrestle with her and stuff like that.  But the very next day, Mom took Latifa to be spayed, and when she came home, she didn't want to have anything to do with me.

Latifa finds all kinds of interesting things to do and places to go!

So Latifa and I get into cat fights sometimes, because what other kind of fights could we get into?  Ha!  We play together a little bit, but mostly Latifa prefers to play by herself and not with me.  She likes to snuggle with Mom at night under the sheet, but she doesn't snuggle with us other cats.  She doesn't play with the "W" kittens either.  I guess if they aren't her kittens, she doesn't want anything to do with them.  I just think she's kind of weird.

Right now I don't have any kittens to play with, because Waldo and Willis got adopted on Saturday, and Waverly and Wyatt are spending the week at PetSmart.  So I either have to play by myself or get Latifa to play with me.  I know it's a lost cause, but I can't seem to resist pestering her to play.  This morning I showed up at breakfast with a scratch on my nose.  Mom thinks I got it from Latifa, but I'm not saying.  There's no way I would admit that I got beat up by a girl!

Okay, well, here are a few of my other interests and hobbies.  I really like hunting bugs.  Any time there is a bug in the house, I am after it!  And a lot of times I catch it, too, because I'm a very good hunter.

Another thing I like to do is look out the front door through that little pane of glass at the bottom.  I'm sure that whoever designed that door had a cat because that window is just the perfect height.  Of course, I look out of the other windows, too, but the front door is the best.

Oh, and here's the most fun thing of all:  I love to dash out the back door whenever I can, and then go exploring in the back yard.  Mom hates it when I do this because she says cats aren't allowed outside, but I've made my escape a bunch of times while Mom was waiting for a dog to come in the house.  Now Mom usually looks all around before she opens the door, and if she sees me anyplace, she picks me up and holds me so that I can't go out.

Mom thinks she's smart, but I'm smarter.  All I have to do is bide my time, and one of these days she will slip up again.  I've learned how to play a mean game of keep-away, so Mom can't usually get me back in the house unless she offers me something really yummy that I can't resist coming back to eat.  I try to hold out as long as I can, but in the end, I always give in!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


The real name for Yorkies is Yorkshire Terriers, but most people just call them "Yorkies."  I think this is probably because "Yorkshire Terrier" is way too long a name for such a little dog.  In 2011, Yorkies were the 5th most popular dog breed in the U.S., according to the AKC.  This is likely because (1) they are really cute, and (2) they are so small that you can just stick one in your purse and take it along wherever you go.

Before the 19th century, there was no such thing as a Yorkshire Terrier.  But then what happened was that some Scottish people moved into northern England so they could get work in the cotton and woolen mills.  These people brought several types of small terriers with them, and the dogs were used to hunt mice and rats in the mills.

Nobody knows exactly which terriers were bred together to make Yorkies, but the Paisley Terrier was probably part of the mix because of its long, silky coat.  Also there might have been some Maltese bred in.  Anyway, the terrier that breeders ended up with was different from other terriers, and it became a whole new breed, the Yorkshire Terrier.

Mrs. Foster's "Huddersfield Ben"
and Lady Giffard's "Katie"
One of the most famous Yorkies ever was named Huddersfield Ben.  An authority on the breed wrote that "Huddersfield Ben was the best stud dog of his breed during his life-time, and one of the most remarkable dogs of any pet breed that ever lived; and most of the show specimens of the present day have one or more crosses of his blood in their pedigree."  Of course, nowadays we know that it's not such a good idea to use one sire so much because it limits the breed's gene pool, but back then people weren't thinking about stuff like that.  All the Yorkshire Terrier breeders wanted their puppies to look like Ben, and he started being called the "father of the breed."

Yorkies first came to North America in 1872, and the AKC registered the first one in 1885.  The breed was really popular during the Victorian Era, both in the U.K. and in the U.S.  But by the 1940s, people weren't wanting small dogs so much anymore, and the percentage of toy breeds registered was only 18%.  But then Smoky, the little Yorkshire Terrier who became a famous war dog, made people get interested in the breed again.  I told you the story of Smoky already and you can read it here, just in case you forgot it.

The coat of a Yorkshire Terrier is supposed to be silky, straight, and glossy.  In show dogs, the coat is grown out long and parted down the middle of the back.  The color is dark gray or steel blue, except on the head, chest, and legs, where it is tan.  Sometimes Yorkies have coats that are more wooly or cottony or are an off-color.  These dogs are not shown or bred, but they make perfectly good pets, of course.

When Yorkie puppies are born, they are black with tan points on the muzzle, eyes, ears, legs, and feet.  The black turns blue-gray as the dog gets older, but it might take three years for the coat to reach its final color.

Yorkshire Terriers usually have a lot of personality.  They are active, love attention, and are sometimes overprotective.  They are spunky and smart, and they trot around in a sassy, confident way.  Their temperament is not as soft as what some other lap dogs have.  Yorkies like to bark, which makes them good watchdogs.

The breed standard says that Yorkies should weigh between 5 and 7 pounds.  There are "teacup" Yorkies who only weigh about 3 pounds, but these tiny dogs may only live 3--7 years.  A normal-sized Yorkie will have a life span anywhere from 12 to 17 years.

The main health problems that Yorkies have are bronchitis, lymphangiactasia, portosystemic shunt, cataracts, and keratitis sicca.  I don't know what some of this stuff is, so if you want to know about it, you will have to look it up yourself.  Yorkies don't tolerate anesthesia very well, and they are more likely to be hurt or killed by falls, other dogs, or their owners' clumsiness.  Which means that if you have a Yorkie, you should be really careful not to sit on it or drop it or anything like that.

Oh, and one other reason why people probably like Yorkies is because they are just the right size to dress up with cute little clothes.  And also you can put bows in their hair.  So if you're into that kind of thing, you might want to get yourself a Yorkie.  And if you're not, well, you can use your Yorkie to catch any mice that get into your house.

Saturday, August 18, 2012


The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) just did a great big survey of 50,000 American households to find out what's new in the world of pet ownership.  The results of this survey turned out to be rather shocking, because they show that pet ownership is DOWN for the first time in 20 years!  The AVMA does this study every 4 or 5 years because they want to know if anybody will still be bringing their animals to the vet clinic and paying to have them taken care of.  Because if nobody is going to do this, the veterinarians might as well start looking for some other kind of job!

Anyway, here is what the most recent survey learned about pet ownership between 2006 and 2011:

-- There are 1.9% fewer households with dogs
-- There are 6.2% fewer with cats
-- There are 16.7% fewer with horses
-- There are 20.5% fewer with birds
-- 36.5% of all households have at least one dog
-- 30.4% of all households own cats
-- The total cat population is about 74.1 million
-- The total dog population is about 70 million

One thing the survey didn't ask people was the reason why they have fewer pets than they used to.  So the AVMA had to come up with some theories to explain this sad trend.  One theory is that the Bad Economy has made it harder for people to afford pets.  So when their dog or cat or hamster dies, they don't get a new one.  Or sometimes people have to give up their pets because they can't buy them food and vaccinations anymore.

Another theory is that younger people are more interested in electronic stuff like iPhones and iPads instead of in playing with dogs and cats.  Also, some people like to travel, and they don't want to worry about what to do with their pets while they are gone.  

Okay, now here's the part about how much people spend on their animals at the vet's office:

-- Veterinary visits for dogs increased by 9.2% to 130.4 million
-- Veterinary visits for cats decreased 4.4% to 60.5 million
-- Dog owners spent $19.1 billion, which was 18.6% more than in 2006
-- Cat owners spent $7.4 billion, which was only up 4.2%
-- Total veterinary spending for dogs and cats went up 14% to $26.5 billion
-- Spending in 2011 for all pets, including horses, was $28 billion

These numbers sound pretty good, but if you adjust for inflation, then spending has stayed about the same.  Also, a lot of pets didn't go see the veterinarian at all during 2011.  Nineteen percent of dog households didn't visit the vet in 2011, which was up from 17% in 2006.  For cat households, 45% said they didn't go to the vet.  In 2006 it was 36%.  Personally, I think it would be a fine idea to take a year off from going to the vet's office, but Mom totally disagrees, even after I explained that it would save her money.  Sigh.

But anyway, while all these dogs and cats were staying home from the clinic, the number of small-animal veterinarians has been going up.  By 2007, there were 44,785, which was 48% more than in 1996.  I don't know how many there are now, but probably even more than that.

So here are the biggest problems I see in this whole situation:

1.  There are way too many homeless animals already, and now there are getting to be even more of them because people are giving up their pets, and fewer people can afford to adopt.  Which means too many dogs and cats end up getting put to sleep.

2.  There are more veterinarians than there are jobs, partly because people don't have as many pets now, and partly because people aren't taking their dogs and cats to the vet's office as often.

I wish I knew how to solve these problems, but I don't, and it is making me tired just to think about them, so the only thing I know to do is go take a nap now!

Thursday, August 16, 2012


I am happy to tell you that this is the last blog entry about that convention thing Mom went to last week.    After this, I will be able to write about dogs and extinct animals and weird words and all the kinds of stuff I usually like to write about.

So anyway, on Thursday night at the convention, there was this event called "Authors' Night," and a bunch of people who wrote books were there trying to sell them.  Also there were some yummy snacks to eat and a bar where you could get drinks, and two guys were singing and playing instruments.  The two guys were called the Gum Springs Serenaders.  One of them played a banjo, and the other one played a fiddle, which is just another word for a violin.

After Mom ate some goodies and bought some books that she probably won't ever find time to read, she went and listened to the music.  Then she asked the banjo player why there were no frets on the neck of his banjo.  He said that was how they used to make them, and he said the banjo came from Africa originally.  Well, I think that is pretty cool, since basenjis also came from Africa originally, as I might have mentioned before.

Anyway, the man also told Mom that banjos were first made by slaves, but then white people started using them in comic acts in minstrel shows.  These white people painted their faces black and then they made fun of black people.  So the real black people stopped playing the banjo and started playing the guitar instead.

The banjo player at the convention wanted to know if anybody had a request for a song, and Mom asked if they had already played "Sweet Betsy from Pike."  He said they hadn't played it, and they had a version they could play.  He told Mom that that song came from England, and it had several different versions, including the one that most people know, which is mostly about going west in a covered wagon.  But since these two guys play music from before the Civil War, they sang "Sweet Betsy" with all different words.

 Here's a picture of the book room at the convention.  There weren't really a lot of books that Mom wanted to buy, but she did buy two there.  The rest of the books she got were in the silent auction.

One lady had a whole bunch of interesting old clothing from the 1840s, 1850s, and 1860s.  Every day she had some clothes on display from a different decade.

Also, this lady wore some old-style dresses that she had made, and she said she would make dresses for anybody that wanted her to.  You could pick the fabric and the pattern you wanted her to use.  Mom did not ask the lady to make her a dress because Mom doesn't really have any places to wear clothes like that.  Mom didn't even ask how much it costs to have a dress made.  I am sure that Mom would rather spend the money on dog food, and that's why she didn't ask.

The day that Mom was taking pictures of old authentic clothes was the day that the 1840s clothes were on display.  Here is a very pretty dress that you might wear on a nice occasion.

And here is the corset you had to wear under your dress to make you look small and slender.  After you got it laced up, you pretty much couldn't take any deep breaths the rest of the day.  Besides the corset, you had to wear a chemise and a couple of petticoats and a hoop skirt, at least during the 1860s.  It took lots and lots of fabric to make all these items of clothing, as you can imagine.

This is a bonnet, and in the background, there is a wedding dress.

In this photo, you can see a girl's dress and shoes.  Also there is a boy's jacket and trousers.

If you were just hanging out at home, you could wear something a little more comfortable, such as this dress, and you didn't have to wear a corset under it.  But if somebody suddenly showed up to pay a visit, you would have to put on a nicer dress or else pretend you weren't home.

So I will just end this by saying that people really dressed funny back in those days.  But at least they didn't dress their dogs up in goofy costumes, or at least we don't have any evidence to show that they did.  And that's a very good thing!