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Red-headed stepchild

Posted by ESC on November 28, 2000

In Reply to: Red-headed stepchild posted by Steve Waldhalm on November 28, 2000

: I have found many references using "red-headed stepchild" as a cliche for the abused, undervalued outcast.
: I am very interested in knowing the origin of this phrase and its apparent cultural derivation.
: SW

I haven't been able to find this in my reference books. To access a previous discussion, search the Discussion Forum archives under "stepchild." Here is what was said, in part:

: 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."

Anyone have any new insights?