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Words and phrases that came from mills e.g. see http://www.worldwidewords.org/articles/miller.htm Some examples

  • to have a millstone around one’s neck is a graphic reference to the heaviest, most intractable object that anyone in a village would ever encounter.
  • To be put, or to go through the mill means to be exposed to hardship or rough treatment, just like corn being ground
  • keeping your nose to the grindstone. The most important possessions of the miller were his pairs of grindstones, which were incredibly expensive. They had to be made of just the right kind of stone, which was not usually to be found in the neighbourhood, and the cost of transporting such weighty and unwieldy objects was the largest part of the expense of setting up a mill (the ones in the mill we visited apparently came from France, but this would be an exceptional case). The lower stone was fixed and the upper one turned by the machinery (driven by a waterwheel in this case). The stones had to be set exactly the right distance apart: too big a gap and the corn didn’t grind properly; too small and the grain overheated and began to burn. Gauging the gap was a crucial part of the skill of milling, not least because accidentally allowing the stones to touch would within a very short time wear them out. But setting the gap correctly was complicated by the need to keep the stones completely enclosed, so as to minimise flying dust and to keep the flour free from dirt, which meant their position could not be judged by eye. Our guide was adamant that the best tool the miller had was his nose: he would immediately be able to detect the slightest trace of burning and adjust the gap before any harm was done. But to do this effectively meant the miller had to stay constantly close to the stones—hence, keep his nose to the grindstone.
  • To get ‘soaked’ or overcharged : Millers had a reputation for being dishonest and were often said to have a "golden thumb", referring to the practice of pressing their thumb on the scales to increase the weight and therefore the price charged. It gave rise to the expression to get "soaked" or overcharged.