Origin of the term "cold shoulder"

< Previous | Next >

Sheikh_14

Senior Member
English- United Kingdom, Urdu, Punjabi
My dear experts of the English language,

It is most certainly clear what giving someone the cold shoulder has come to mean but how has it done so. Kindly do not merely regurgitate the many contradictory sources online but rather express your own view which of course evidence would only serve to amplify.

Best Regards,
Sheikh
 
  • Glenfarclas

    Senior Member
    English (American)
    "Cold" = unfriendly.
    "Give the shoulder" = turn one's shoulder upon; turn away from.

    You're perfectly free to search for your own evidence.
     

    Egmont

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    It is often said that this phrase originated when unwanted guests were served the cold shoulder of an animal instead of warm meat from a better part of the animal. There is no evidence to support this. Its actual origin is unknown. It first appeared in print when Dickens Scott used it in 1816, so it was probably in use before that, but nobody knows how long.

    Edited to correct reference to first writer who used it. What was I thinking? Dickens would have been 4 years old then!
     
    Last edited:

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    From OED
    Used fig., chiefly in the phrase to show the cold shoulder, explained in the Glossary to the Antiquary as ‘To appear cold and reserved’; now also to give the cold shoulder: to display intentional and marked coldness, or studied indifference. (A ‘cold shoulder of mutton’ as a dish has suggested many puns and allusive uses.)
    1816 Scott Antiquary III. iv. 69 The Countess's dislike did na gang farther at first than just shewing o' the cauld shouther.
    1823 Scott St. Ronan's Well III. iv. 91, I must tip him the cold shoulder, or he will be pestering me eternally.
     

    Sheikh_14

    Senior Member
    English- United Kingdom, Urdu, Punjabi
    So Paul you would consider the equation with cold meat to be the origin or that it is merely a long stretch? The Wikipedia entry also mentions where and how it was originally used and suggests that the juxtaposition with cold cuts of meat over roasted meat is not by any stretch correct. My personal inkling had I not bothered to search was precisely what Glen has suggested that it correlates to the standoffishness of giving someone a stiff shoulder I.e when you're cold you stiffen up your shoulders and thus are less receptive to someones touch or them conversing with you.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    So Paul you would consider the equation with cold meat to be the origin or that it is merely a long stretch?
    I cannot see that the cold shoulder of mutton has anything to do with the phrase other than in the form of jokes and puns that use it.
    My personal inkling had I not bothered to search was precisely what Glen has suggested that it correlates to the standoffishness of giving someone a stiff shoulder I.e when you're cold you stiffen up your shoulders and thus are less receptive to someones touch or them conversing with you.
    I don't think it would have anything to do with actual temperature. Cold and hot have long been associated with emotions and body-language - hot-headed/cold-hearted, etc. In this case cold = unwelcoming, standoffish, unreceptive, etc., meanings often found in English.

    I agree with Glenfarcas.
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top