Below the Salt

Meaning of “Below the Salt”

The phrase “below the salt” means common people or people who are below the accepted standard of formality in manners.

Origin of “Below the Salt”

The phrase “below the salt” is stated to have originated from the table manners of the Medieval English periods. It was, however, first used in Cynthia’s Revels by Ben Johnson published in 1599 as; His fashion is not to take knowledge of him that is beneath him in Cloaths. He never drinks below the salt.”

Examples in Literature

Example #1

Below the Salt by Unwound

Dont lie to summarize
The truth in place of life
Create a world to find
Your love, your love, your love, your love

I want to be above
And beyond the blue too
The river but the lights
Are bright, are bright, are bright, are bright

I meant for something new
To make anything true
Is part of what i do
Never coming back to you
What is it i said
To bleed and make a pact
Together is apart from then
Then i will tell you when

Below the salt means less
Than something else i said
Below the salt means less
Than something else i said
Below the salt means less

The song shows that the singer wants his beloved above the others, the reason that he always tries to create something that should enter that arena of others. However, he comes across the hard truth that he is not among them and that he is “below the salt” which means lesser than others. The lyrics demonstrate the singer’s acute consciousness that he is among the rude and crude people not accepted among the upper divisions of life.

 Example #2

Below the Salt: A Novel by Thomas B. Costain

Below the Salt is an interesting novel by Thomas B. Costain that presents the events happened in 700 years and led to the final Magna Carta in English political history. However, the novel becomes interesting for it has a story within a story. The story of a US Senator Richard ORawn and another person Richard of Rawan, the impoverished son of Edward, the King. Hence, the novel has been titled as ‘Below the Salt’ though both stories go side by side. The phrase intends to present both sides of the social fabric.

Example #3

Alas, Poor Yorick by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

It is a rowdy night, with a band of Hamlets Captains sitting at his central table, just below the Kings own tables, and below the salt. Most of the men have had beer and mead with their first serving bread, and several are ruddy-cheeked and belching already. The men below the salt have been given vast trenchers of bread and have a first course of thick vegetable-paste to spread on the broken bits of crust. Because this is a celebration, the past has been livened up with spices – cinnamon and ginger and cloves.

Chelsea Quinn Yarbro presented the palatial setting of Hamlet staying that different classes were set at different places. Some have a beer while others have mead in their hands to show that they are already enjoying the celebration. The phrase has been used in the very first sentence to show the meanings that it means people below the accepted standard of formality.

Example #4

Knights and Castles: Thematic Unit by Scott T. Walters

The king’s kitchen staff decorated most of the food before they served it. Sometimes when meat was served, the servant put the fur or feathers back on the meat to make it look alive! On the other hand, because there was no refrigeration, the food spoiled quickly. Sometime when food was spoiled, they just dumped extra gravy on it and served it anyway. One of the only ways to preserve and season food was to salt all the meat. In fact, since salt was so important at the medieval table, it began to be a sort of status symbol. Most great halls only had one large salt container, and where you sat in relation to it told people how important you were. The more important people sat “above the salt,” and those who were less important sat “below the salt.” During the evening meals, the lord and his family sat upon a raised platform called a dais and watched court jesters who sang, juggled, and told a few tales. Fireplaces, torches, and candles had to be used to light the dark rooms even during the daytime.

In this paragraph, Scott T. Walters explained the medieval periods and the importance of table manners to reach the meanings of the phrase. Here the salt is an important ingredient of the table. Therefore, it was considered necessary that a person considered below the salt is a crude and rude person. However, a person above the salt means a person from the upper class of the society or from the elite class.

Examples in Sentences

Example #1: “Ginger always wanted to spend on branded clothes because she didn’t want people to think she is below the salt.”

Example #2: “The aristocrats do not welcome people below the salt because it was a danger to their status.”

Example #3: “It is often said that very few people who are below the salt are crude while speaking.”

Example #4: “Living among below the salt has changed David. He is kinder and independent than before.”

Example #5: “Even if you are below the salt, you are still a royalty, said the preacher. When you carry yourself with grace, the world will respect you.”