I was searching on-line for the origin of the title phrase. While most sites (that weren’t about the Meatloaf album) gave sort of hand-waving explanations about the meaning being “fast and reckless”; only one addressed the origin question directly, saying it was from the play “The Birds” by Aristophanes. However, it didn’t provide the exact quote, and I sort of “lost” my copy, so I was wondering if the board intelligentsia can verify that explanation and provide the quote.
From Aristiophanes’ “Birds” (bolding mine):
Source: Aristophanes, Birds, line 1553
From the Meatloaf album’s Wiki:
" The phrase “Bat Out of Hell” can be traced back to the playwright Aristophanes’ 414 B.C. work titled *[The Birds]. In it is what is believed to be the first reference to a bat out of [Hell]:
Near by the land of the Sciapodes there is a marsh, from the borders whereof the unwashed Socrates evokes the souls of men. Pisander came one day to see his soul, which he had left there when still alive. He offered a little victim, a camel, slit his throat and, following the example of Odysseus, stepped one pace backwards. Then that bat of a [Chaerephon] came up from hell to drink the camel’s blood."
But neither of them note the phrase meaning “faster than $#!^”.
Here’s one link I found with entymologies of the phrase going back to late 1800s.
Thanks, Ken and Czar. I was never a Meatloaf fan, so I wasn’t aware of the album having those notes.
In any case, I don’t think that quote leads directly to the “fast and reckless” meaning we use today, but at least it’s something concrete, unlike many phrase origin stories that sound like they’re made up after the fact.
Some scepticism about Aristophanes on the Idiom Origins site:
I read that saying the Wiki entry had the explanation, not the album itself.
It occurs to me that the final bit of the song is truer to the origin of the phrase than the “fast and reckless” meaning.
He’s down at the bottom of a pit in the blazing sun, right? Sounds kind of hellish. And the last thing he sees is his heart, still beating, breaking out of his body and flying away like a bat out of hell. So his heart is flying up out of a hot hole in the ground. Innnteresting.
I’m doing an article on Meat Loaf and “Bat out of Hell” that will be appearing on my FB account soon. I’m focusing on the BOOH character due to it’s significance and ML’s linking it to Bloch and Hitchcock’s “Psycho.” It started out pretty much as a memorial work, but the Psycho angle changed my orientation.
RIP Meat Loaf
I wonder if people seeing swarms of bats flooding out of a cave at dusk may have then used the term to describe some furious action. I would suspect the site of the bats flooding out of a cave would have brought forth the idea of hell spawn, from the dark depths.