"It wasn't the cough that carried him off," It was the coffin they carried him off in."
This comes from Victorian times. Before the advent of penicillin If you did not look after yourself, a cold went straight to the chest, turned from pneumonia into double pneumonia and you were dead within a fortnight. "It wasn't the cough that carried him off," girls sang over skipping-ropes, "It was the coffin they carried him off in."
Even earlier, from the time of the 'Black Death' a bubonic plague which swept across europe killing millions:
Ring a ring o'roses
A pocketful of posies
We all fall down.
Posies were scented handkerchiefs which were thought to ward off the disease. I suppose they at least made the smell bearable!
Once you started sneezing (ah-tishoo) however, you would soon fall down (collapse and die)
At least they had a sense of humour. I wonder if we will be the same when bird 'flu' strikes!
I am not sure about the edge of time. Sounds like it could mean we are on the brink of something.