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Re: Spawn of Satan

Posted by Smokey Stover on February 12, 2008 at 14:55:

In Reply to: Spawn of Satan posted by Ida on February 10, 2008 at 22:19:

: When and where did the phrase 'Spawn of Satan' originate?

THe word spawn was originally used mostly for the eggs of fish and other aquatic egg-layers, typically tiny eggs in a huge quantity. The word can also be used for the brood resulting from a quantity of eggs. In its proper meaning, "spawn" is familiar in the U.S. particularly in regard to salmon, which have to find their way back to the upper reaches of the rivers in which they were originally spawned. It becomes a problem for salmon to spawn if the river is made unnavigable by dams.

It's an easy step for spawn to be used for any offspring, especially in large broods, and for it to be used contemptuously or pejoratively. The OED mentions an example of "spawn of Beelzebub" from 1865.

However, since both the literal and the extended meaning of spawn have long since been part of the language, as has "Satan," the question becomes: When did this phrase become popular? Is there a particular person's use of it that precipitated the vogue that it now enjoys? I can't answer the question, but it seems to me that the phrase meets one of the needs of horror movies, both realistically and humorously. I say humorously because an element of facetious humor underlies many horror films. But I can't guarantee that the phrase is actually found in any horror films, as I don't watch that genre.

The principle use of "spawn of Satan" nowadays seems to be as an exaggerated and facetious characterization of someone, or some group, that can be described as "evil," also usually used facetiously. My Internet search program tells me that Ann Coulter described the attendees at the 2004 Democratic National Convention as "spawn of Satan." The phrase was soon used to described Ann Coulter. One person so describes his cat. There is a series of flash cartoons with this title.

In short, I can't answer the question.
SS