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Posted by ESC on November 08, 2001

In Reply to: Redheaded stepchild--archives posted by R. Berg on November 08, 2001

: : If anyone can honestly tell me the Origin of the term Red-Headed Step Child, I would like to know. Or, if you know where I can find it, that would help too. I need two sources to prove the derivation of this phrase. If you have any ideas- email me. Thanks!!! :)

: For a previous discussion, type "stepchild" in the Search box below the list of archives.

: : What does this mean?
: A stepchild might be singled out for abuse. But a red-headed stepchild (who presumably looks like his or her absent birth-parent) might be abused even more because he or she is so obviously different from the other children.
: The expression I have heard is, "I'm going to beat you like a red-headed stepchild."
: Sad, isn't it?
Only slightly more humane is: "beat you like a rented mule."

"BEAT - Whip him like a red-headed stepchild." From This Dog'll Really Hunt: An Entertaining Texas Dictionary by Wallace O. Chariton (Wordware Publishing, Piano, Texas, 1989, 1990). Page 21.

I like the theory I proposed (see paragraph 2). But you might be able to use the following to support a theory that red-headed children are more trouble than others. I have no idea if this has anything to do with "red-headed stepchild," but it's worth a try.

"RED-HEADED VILLAIN - As Rosalind says in (Shakespeare's) 'As You Like it," His very hair is of the dissembling color. Villains have frequently been depicted in fiction as redheads, perhaps due to the tradition that Judas Iscariot (who betrayed Christ) had red hair. Redheads were once thought to be so deceitful that the fat of dead red-haired men was used as an ingredient in poisons and fish baits." From the Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 1997). Page 568.

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