Monday, May 12, 2014
Word of the Week - Shoulder
Okay, so no, I wasn't just looking up shoulder. ;-) But in looking up the origins of the phrase cold shoulder for my recently-finished Edwardian, I found several of the uses interesting, so I thought I'd share.
Shoulder itself has been in English approximately forever. But did you know the word (which comes from German) is likely related to shield? I sure didn't.
Then there's the use that means "side of the road"--that's from 1933. I suppose that makes sense, because until roads were widened for cars, I'd never heard of any shoulder to them...still, it's a bit later than I would have thought.
And then there's cold shoulder. This is what sent me to etymonline.com to begin with, and I'm glad I paused to look it up! The phrase dates from 1816, first from Sir Walter Scott. It actually didn't indicate a human shoulder, but rather a shoulder of mutton--which was considered a poor man's dish. Make it cold, and it was an unpleasant dish that you would only serve someone you were put out with or decidedly not welcoming to your home. So to give someone "the cold shoulder" meant to give them something distasteful and insulting, to show you have no regard for them.
Not what I expected from that one, gotta say!