Saturday, March 10, 2012

Hot As Hell

Jessie Pascoe wrote to ask about one of her grandmother’s sayings, when hell freezes over.

The traditional view of hell posits that hell is infinitely hot; therefore, it can never freeze.

Actually, the idiom has a couple of forms.

  • Until or till hell freezes over means forever, as in, “I’ll be watching you until hell freezes over.”
  • When hell freezes over means never, as in, “I’ll vote for him when hell freezes over.”

No one seems to know who first uttered the saying. It seems to be American, and the Oxford English Dictionary gives this example from 1832:

“This week we received another paper returned from the same [post] office ‥.on the margin of which is written, ‘Stop this paper or send it to Syracuse, where [the subscriber now] lives.' I shall send it back until hell freezes over . . . .” [Evangelical Magazine & Gospel Advocate, 4 Feb. 38/3]

Available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition

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