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As cold as charity

Posted by Victoria S Dennis on November 24, 2005

In Reply to: As cold as charity posted by Richard Wiegold on November 22, 2005

: Whence the expression "as cold as charity"? When was it first used?

It's ironic, pointing out that although the word "charity" originally meant "love", institutional charity is often dispensed in a mean grudging spirit. It has no known originator. My bet would be for an origin in the Victoria era, when the charity dispensed to the poor could be bleak in the extreme (as described in Dickens' "Oliver Twist"). Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-94)used it in his poem "Christmas at Sea" but is not credited with inventing it. (VSD)