It seems I’m running into this expression more and more in my reading of late. I understand that it’s not intended to be taken as a compliment, but I can’t quite figure out what it is supposed to mean. Any ideas as to the original context of the phrase?
I always thought it meant either something on the order of “I hope you go blind” or “May god take your sight”, or perhaps eyes=soul (i.e. eyes are the windows of the soul or some such)…so damn your eyes would equate to may your soul be damned.
The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, by Laurence Sterne:
For this reason my father would oft-times affirm, there was not an oath
from the great and tremendous oath of William the conqueror (By the
splendour of God) down to the lowest oath of a scavenger (Damn your eyes)
which was not to be found in Ernulphus.–In short, he would add–I defy a
man to swear out of it.
It’s the converse of “Bless your little cotton socks.” In each case the eyes and the socks figuratively stand for the person as a whole. So it just means, “Damn you.”
It’s pronounced “EYE-gore.”
I remember “damn your eyes” from the folk ballad “Sam Hall.” Mr Hall is being hanged for murder. He damns pretty much everybody, including the Parson, Sheriff, his girlfriend Nellie, and the onlookers at the party. It was a popular ballad at least in the 19th century and most likely earlier. Johnny Cash recorded it on American IV. The Cash song and the Young Frankenstein are probably responsible for keeping it fresh.
Some of the lyrics from “American Ballads: Naughty Ribald and Classic,” 1952 (I probably have some older lyrics around, but I’m not in the mood to go looking for them):
Oh, my name it is Sam Hall, it is Sam Hall;
Yes, my name it is Sam Hall, it is Sam Hall;
Yes, my name it is Sam Hall, and I hate you one and all,
Yes, I hate you one and all, God damn your eyes.
Oh the Parson he did come, he did come;
Yes, the Parson he did come, he did come;
And he looked so bloody glum, as he talked of Kingdom Come -
He can kiss my ruddy bum, God damn his eyes.
He is an angry man who is cursing all those who are now looking at him on the gallows. Some are looking at him with pity, remorse, condemnation, and sympathy. With no where else to go but down, he tells them all to go take a flying leap through a rolling doughnut in the polite way of the times. Unlike the uncouth bastards we live with today.
So in today’s parlance - “F him”
Actually, there is a version of that song which fits today’s parlance better:
“Damn your eyes, blast yer souls
Up youse all big an’ small
Yer a bunch of fuckers all
Damn your eyes.”
They told me it was E-gore.
[obligatory finishing of dialog]
Well they were wrong, weren’t they?
[/obligatory finishing of dialog]
Okay, so “damn your eyes” seems to be the 18th century equivalent of “fuck you.” It somehow had not occurred to me that the phrase would have packed that great of a conversational punch, but if that is, in fact, the case, then it makes a lot of sense.
Anybody have any idea where the phrase comes from?