Thursday, March 12, 2009

Colder Than...

A cold front came through on Wednesday and the temperature is 47F at 2 p.m. Frozen bodies abound in ditches.

Just kidding, Canada.

The wind is blowing about 30 MPH, and since I was wearing a long sleeve shirt and no jacket (paging Dr. Einstein), as I walked out to my car after work I suddenly thought it's colder than a witch's left tit.

Then I realized that what I had just thought was probably the strangest expression in the history of language. Did witches allegedly fly in winter with their left boob exposed or something?

I have no idea when I first heard this phrase, but it always stuck with me because it was so bizarre. This time, though, I was curious enough to look it up when I got home.

There are several theories. The first is quite benign:
When the temperature falls low enough to freeze mercury in the bulb or tit of a weather witch or what is commonly known as a mercury thermometer it is said to be as cold as a witches tit.

The next two theories come from the same person, and I can't find any additional sourcing (although these two theories are widely cited). The first:
The simple explanation is that "colder than a witch's tit" is just a vivid metaphor, like "hotter than the hinges of hell." Since a witch is in league with Satan, presumably she has no maternal feelings. Thus the medium by which she would suckle a child is, well, cold as a witch's tit.

The second, which is appropriately ominous and grisly:
...there's some history behind this wisecrack. A witch's tit (or witch's teat, to use the older spelling) supposedly left a marking that witch hunters and courts would look for on the body of an accused person. Supposedly, witches would suckle their familiars, and sometimes the Devil himself, from this "unholy" body part. To find these marks, as well as insensitive spots on the skin called devil's marks--caused by the Devil's claws or teeth--the suspects were stripped, shaven, then closely examined for any blemishes, moles, or even scars that could be labeled as diabolical. To find marks invisible to the eye, the examiner would poke the victim inch by inch with a blunt needle (called a bodkin) until they found a spot that didn't feel pain or bled. Discovery of these marks or spots--one supposes they would be considered cold since they were a sign of communion with theDevil--would be "proof" of the person's dealings with Scratch, so they would be shown in full court before the execution.

Whoa. Funny phrase buzzkill.

Now it's time to sit back and wait for the e-mail from people who claim to be witches, because trust me, they're coming. It may take a while, but they're coming.

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