Posted by Lewis on October 20, 2005

In Reply to: Foot care posted by Victoria S Dennis on October 17, 2005

: : : : : : : : Hi! Can you help me figure out what "cool one's heels" means? I think I know, but I don't know where it comes from. Thank you - Will from Mrs. Morrissey's class.

: : : : : : : It means to wait for a long time like today when I had to wait for my 2pm doctors appointment till 3.30.

: : : : : : : I always saw it as someone walking very fast to get to an appointment where friction would heat the bottom of the shoe and then while waiting for the appointment the bottom of the shoe cools off.

: : : : : : To cool one's heels -- To be kept waiting a long time, as for an appointment. The metaphor may allude to a horse who, tired after a long journey, stands in the stream from which it drinks. (From Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable revised by Adrian Room (HarperCollinsPublishers, New York, 1999, Sixteenth Edition.)

: : : : : Since when did horses have 'heels'? with all due respect to Brewers, surely a bit of thought would have excluded horses from the analogy.

: : : : : if somebody goes 'hot foot' somewhere then they might well 'cool their heels' waiting on arrival. the contrast of cooling heels is against being hot footed - going nowhere.

: : : : : L

: : : : Am I missing something? From the sentence structure I deduce, incorrectly I hope, that Lewis believes that being hot footed means "going nowhere." In the U.S. there is a verb, hotfoot, as in, "Shirley's giving away free samples, let's hotfoot it over there!" There's also a noun: "He was sittin there asleep, so I gave him a hotfoot." SS

: : : Sorry, Smokey, horses do indeed have heels, and if you don't apply proper footcare to a clipped and stabled horse (e.g. not drying its hoofs properly after soaking in a pond) it may develop "cracked heels". Unclipped horses that are kept in a field are less prone to this condition. (VSD)

: : I agree, V, that horses absolutely should have proper hoofcare, heels and all. Do we say hoofs, not hooves? Clipped I'm not familiar with. And I'm surprised no one has asked about the hotfoot, which I thought was an American invention. I may as well comment that the phrase about cool heels that I have most heard goes something like: "Well, I've kept him cooling his heels long enough." Or: "He kept his unwanted visitor cooling his heels in the waiting room while he slipped out the back door for a quick drink." When I have seen the phrase there has usually been a deliberate element. SS
: Yes, sorry, it is hooves, not hoofs; long day at the office! A clipped horse is one whose coat has been trimmed all neat and glossy - however, it is thereby made much more vulnerable to cold and wet. (VSD)

I now know that horses have heels, which surprises me somewhat. as for my use of 'hot-footed', it was poor sentence construction and Lynn Truss is now after me ; I meant that 'going nowhere' (cooling heels) was in contract to going hot-foot somewhere.

it reminds me that there is the classic visual joke in "Carry On Cleo" where the messenger "comes hot-foot from Rome" and is shown with steam emanating from his sandals.