Monday, November 09, 2009

Egg on your face: Where did that saying come from?

Ever wonder where a certain phrase or saying came from? Words have meaning and often more power when clustered together, but certain phrases are well just weird.

This morning, I gave my daughter breakfast. We tried something new, and to my delight she loved her eggs. :) Yay. Since I have a hubby that's allergic to eggs, I just don't fix them that much. Unless it's for myself.

Anyways, my baby girl ended up with egg on her face. Not just her face, but smeared across her forehead. It got me to thinking, where did that saying come from? Someone had to start it sometime and I know the meaning, but it's kind of a weird phrase. I have to research little tidbits of information and things just like for my stories. If you are writing a historical, you don't want to use a word that hasn't been used yet. Something too new for the world you are building will destroy the reader experience, so this makes accuracy very important.

The internet makes my life so much easier. If I begin to wonder about something, I just google it. So as for the phrase egg on your face, I found my answers here:

Here is the meaning:

It often implies that you have made a serious mistake, but more strictly it indicates that something you have done (or some turn of events) has left you looking embarrassed or foolish

And when do you think it came into being? Only fifty years ago or so according to this article:
It feels like one of those expressions that have been around for ever, but the evidence suggest that it dates only from the middle of last century. It’s definitely American in origin, though now widely known wherever English is spoken.

I know of two suggestions for where it came from. The late John Ciardi suggested an origin in the lower-class and more rowdy kind of theatrical performance, in which an incompetent actor would have been pelted with eggs and forced off the stage. The other is that it was a comment on a minor social gaffe at a meal, when poor manners or sloppy eating left egg around your mouth.

As so often the origin is obscure but this newspaper story suggests that the latter is more likely, and that it began as US teenage slang:

A peek at the script turned up these gems, which Jane says are in the vocabulary of most any 15-year-old these days: “Hold your lava, Vesuvius!” (To a talkative friend). “There I was — with egg on my face!” (describing embarrassment).

The Bee (Danville, Virginia), 27 Aug. 1941.


The internet is very cool at times. :)


Chloe Waits said...

lol I have used this phrase countless times! Good post.
Thanks for dropping by my blog earlier Missy. Speaking of Free Reads, I had read Layover in Louisiana before and had really enjoyed it!
take care

Missy Lyons said...

Thank you for stopping by today Chloe. I am glad you enjoyed it and the short story I wrote. :)