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Old 03-29-2005, 07:44 AM
RealityChuck RealityChuck is online now
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"Colder than a witch's tit" etymology

With all due respect, it's clear your answer to the origin of this phrase is wrong.

The report is correct as far as it goes -- they did search a witch's body for moles or other marks to indicate they were suckling their familiars. However, your answer doesn't actually address the origin of the phrase of all. Indeed, you use the word "presumably" to make the connection instead of citing any facts.

First of all, that explanation makes no sense. Why "colder"? Should it be "dryer" or "barren"?

As for etymology, lgo to the Oxford English Dictionary. According to it, the first usage of the phrase is from 1932:

Quote:
1932 VAN WYCK MASON Spider House xviii. 210 It's cold as a *witch's tit outside. 1974 Times 17 Aug. 7/3 It was cold as a witch's tit, so I sat there and shivered. 1980 R. L. DUNCAN Brimstone viii. 200 Just listening to a weather report... Albuquerque's clear but cold as a witch's tit.
That's long after people were examining witches for signs of the devil. If the phrase originated during the days of witch hunts, why is there such a big gap between those times and the first usage? Without an explanation of the gap, the connection completely breaks down.

The idea behind the phrase is probably much simpler. Witches performed their rites in the nude. Thus, a witch's tit is bound to be cold, especially in winter.

Though I have no proof, note that Van Wyck Mason was a writer of mysteries, at a time when colorful metaphors were common. There is a strong possibility that he invented the phrase himself.

Admittedly, I'm speculating a bit. But my speculation certainly fits the facts better than the explanation given. A phrase tied in with witch hunting will date from the time the witch hunting is going on, not 200+ years later.

You should fix the entry; you don't want to spread misinformation.
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Old 03-29-2005, 10:30 AM
C K Dexter Haven C K Dexter Haven is offline
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We'll look into it, thanks.
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Old 03-30-2005, 08:21 AM
Khampelf Khampelf is offline
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Maybe....

Maybe witches' tits are cold from staying outdoors loading 27 feet of ammo belts into ***Thud***


Oww. that hurt.
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Old 03-30-2005, 09:27 AM
Colibri Colibri is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RealityChuck
The idea behind the phrase is probably much simpler. Witches performed their rites in the nude. Thus, a witch's tit is bound to be cold, especially in winter.

Though I have no proof, note that Van Wyck Mason was a writer of mysteries, at a time when colorful metaphors were common. There is a strong possibility that he invented the phrase himself.
As long as we're speculating, I would suggest that the phrase has more to do with witches as a symbol of evil than the fact they were supposed to dance around in the nude. One would expect the breasts of such creatures to be just the opposite of normal ones - instead of warm and nourishing, cold and barren.

Also, if it is Mason's invention, perhaps he could have been inspired by the expression "colder than a whore's heart." Do you have a date on that one?
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Old 03-30-2005, 09:39 AM
RealityChuck RealityChuck is online now
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I can't find a date for "whore's heart" but there's certainly a case for a parallel construction.

I think the "dancing nude" explanation makes more sense that the other. The phrase describes temperature, so it's more likely the original phrase had to do with temperature and not a metaphor. Besides, if the connection is with the devil, then shouldn't it be "Hotter than a witch's tit" since presumably the devil would warm her?

Ultimately, I tend to go with Occam's Razon (and Cecil's rule of etymology) on this one: the simpler the explanation, the more likely it's true. A woman running around nude is going to be cold, and no additional justfication is really needed.
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Old 03-30-2005, 10:33 AM
Colibri Colibri is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RealityChuck
A woman running around nude is going to be cold, and no additional justfication is really needed.
She's only cold if it happens to be cold out. If she's dancing on Midsummer's Eve, or around a big bonfire on Walpurgis Night or Halloween, then no.

Personally, the image that first comes to my mind with the word "witch" is the Wicked Witch of the West or MacBeth's Weird Sisters, not someone dancing nude at a pagan festival. I think Occam's Razor favors the link to a sense of cold-hearted or evil as the simpler explanation. Of course, YMMV.
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Old 03-31-2005, 08:35 AM
Johanna Johanna is offline
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There are earlier pictures of nude witches (e.g. by Albrecht Dürer or Francisco de Goya), but Gerald Gardner didn't begin "Wicca" until 1939, and he didn't publicize it until 1951. A bit too late for the 1932 Van Wyck Mason quote. Explaining the phrase in the light of skyclad Wicca is clever, but the timelines don't match up. Before Gardner revived it, witchcraft in England and America was believed to be obsolete, a thing of the past. The current association of Wicca with nudity, despite Dürer's 16th-century nude witch woodcuts, is Gardner's doing. He had been a member of naturist societies before starting Wicca. Since his time, lots of modern Witches, making up their own rules, have decided that the Craft doesn't have to require nudity and they do rituals with clothes on. Sorry to burst a cherished cliché. It is true that many Witches still work skyclad until the present day. Because of Gardner.
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