Posted by R. Berg on December 14, 2005
In Reply to: Egg on your face: posted by Kirsten on December 13, 2005
: : : : : : Egg on your face:
: : : : : : My family owns a small historic farm in New York, and found one of our chickens pecking open the eggs in the hen house this summer. We discovered ourselves searching over the birds in the yard for one with 'Egg on her face' to determine the culprit. Could this be the origin?
: : : : : To have egg on your face means to be made to look foolish or to be embarrassed. Your chicken was caught red-handed (guilty, not foolish or embarrassed) even though the yolk was on her. RRC
: : : : And that was a fowl pun.
: : : : DFG
: : : Yeah, I was gonna post also but I just chickened out.
: : Egg-sucking dogs were the culprits where I come from.
: : And from the archives:
: : EGG ON ONE'S FACE -- "Random House Dictionary of American Slang, Vol. 1, A-G" by J.E. Lighter (Random House, New York, 1994): "have egg on (one's) face -- to look foolish or be embarrassed. Now colloq. 1951-53 'Front Page Detective (syndic. TV series): I can see egg all over my face..."
: : Another source says the phrase is "newer" than the 50s. From "The Dictionary of Cliches" by James Rogers (Ballatine Books, New York, 1985): "to have egg on your face - To be embarrassed or chagrined at something one has done or the way one did it; to do something ineptly. The expression originated in the United States some 25 years ago, probably from the fact that someone eating an egg sloppily is likely to wind up with some of it on his face and therefore not looking his best. By 1972 the saying had been picked up in England, as Lord Chalfont reflected in 'The Times' of London: 'There is something reassuringly changeless about the capacity of the highest military authorities for getting egg on their face."
: Yes, but not eggs-actly what I'm getting at. So many of these phrases seem to stem from real life practice. How do you get at the situational origin that inspired the phrase to make itself into speech?
: Same is true for 'Don't throw the baby out with the bath water'-- I know what it means now, but likely in its original form it was meant quite literally as the baby was the last in the family to bathe... and that water was dirty!
: Where can I find this kind of historical discussion-- Anyone know?
For the "egg" phrase, the post just above yours contains a quotation from Rogers's book that describes what I think you mean by "the situational origin." As for babies and bathwater, it's more likely that when a family shared the water, the baby was bathed first. That's how my family did it during the Depression. Anyway, you don't seriously believe that a real person needed to be cautioned not to throw out the baby, do you?