Posted by Smokey Stover on December 26, 2006
In Reply to: Scared the living daylights out of me" come from. posted by Smokey Stover on December 24, 2006
: : : Where did the term "Scared the living daylights out of me" come from.
: : I didn't know "daylights" was a dictionary word. But it is. Means "mental stability."
: I have no quarrel with the use of "daylights" as explained in the cited dictionary. However, I would like to show what the Oxford English Dictionary says about it. The expression as used today seems to be the result of an evolutionary process.
: s.v. daylight "4. pl. The eyes. Also in extended use of any vital organ. Also to beat, scare, etc., the (living) daylight(s) out of (a person), to beat, scare (a person) severely. slang.
: 1752 FIELDING Amelia I. x. (D.), If the lady says such another word to me..I will darken her daylights. 1821 Blackw. Mag. X. 586, I saw the storm..through my half-bunged-up daylights. 1848 E. BENNETT Mike Fink i. 10/1 We'll catch the fever and ager,..and that'll shake the day-lights out o' us. 1884 E. W. NYE Baled Hay 79 The driver bangs the mule, that is ostensibly pulling his daylights out...."
We don't find "living daylights" until later.
" 1955 F. YERBY Treasure of Pleasant Valley iii. 36 Didn't mean to hit him... Meant to throw close to him and scare the living daylights out of him. 1960 N. HILLIARD Maori Girl III. viii. 229 I'll go down there and belt the daylights out of him! 1960 R. RAE Custard Boys I. viii. 92 We'll get yer an' all the rest of yer gang, an' when we do we'll beat the living daylights out of yer. 1963 N.Z. Listener 13 Sept. 10/4, I hated him. He used to beat the daylight out of me. 1964 Illustr. London News 18 Jan. 102/3, I might have chuckled throughout 'The Suitor' if its chief actor did not happen to scare the living daylights out of me, as the current saying goes."