Where do the phrases ‘Sam Hill’ (as in “What the Sam Hill is goin’ on here?”) and ‘diddly squat’ come from? As resident American here in a remote part of Scotland, I am expected to know these things, but I have not a clue as to the origin of these phrases. Please help!
This is an American euphemism for hell. It dates to at least 1839. The
origin is unknown, but undoubtedly the hill is an alteration of hell.
Mencken repeats A.E. Sokol’s 1925 suggestion that the Sam derives from
Samiel, the devil in von Weber’s opera Der Freishuetz, first performed
in New York city in 1825.
I was full grown befor I heard any body say hIll, there is a great folk etymology about a civil war battle in which both sides kept retaking the SAMe hill,or in some versions SAM’s hill,but as you see it is older than that. Other than that I don’t know diddly squat.
Diddly squat I can’t find. WAG From piddly, which is from piddling which means trivial or insignicant and goes at least back to Miton.
Piddle as euphmism for urinate from puddle?
Females need to "Piddle squat " out in the boonies ( yeh I seen the web site about learning to stand) S o you get your two Piddles . ( I do not want to here any thing about any females squatting to…)
OK, checking Webster’s I find:
OK, on to “doodly-squat”
Looks like we need to look up “doodle” as well…
From all of the above, I’d say it basically translates as “meaningless shit”.
“You can’t run away forever; but there’s nothing wrong with getting a good head start.” — Jim Steinman
I have this game called Origins and it’s like Trivial Pursuit but all about the origins of words, phrases and customs. It’s pretty interesting. My favorite one is “cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey.” Back in the days of schooners and cannons they would stack up the cannon balls on a big brass plate and when it was really cold the plate would contract and all the balls would tumble off. Cool huh?
I always enjoyed the expression “fiddle fart” as in “Quit fiddle-farting around!”
The first time I ever encountered the term “diddly squat” was in Kurt Vonnegut’s novel “Breakfast of Champions”. Maybe that was the original?
Lou, I hope (and pray) that was sarcasm. If not… “Release the hounds!”
Re: Brass Monkeys
The etymology above is one of the most amuseing and creative examples of boulderizion I know of. It’s a great story, but the fact of the matter is, “Cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey” means just what it says. . .
To quote from the Facts on File: Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins by Robert Hedrickson. (1997):
“Some say that the “monkey” here is not the brass image of a monkey but a rack called the “monkey” used on wooden navel ships in the days of sail to hold canonballs in place, to keep them from rolling all over the deck. But no one as yet has proved the existance of any rack called a “monkey,” one made of brass or anything else. And how weather could cause cannonballs to spill from a rack also remains to be explained.”
It’s a neat story, but testicles are the balls refered to here.
And Manda JO sics 'im!
There’s also a great debunking of the entymology of that particular phrase on the “Urban Legends” homepage. This was covered here a while back, hense the snide retort. I’ll try to find the link and post it, Amanda.
My guess is that the supposed naval origin of this expression dates back to when someone inadvertantly said it in front of his mother and had to quickly think of an innocuous explanation of what it meant.
I can’t believe my precious Origins lied to me…I thought it sounded like a perfectly plausable explanantion.
Here’s that site I promised. Believe what you wish.