Scott asked about the
origin of the threat, “I’ll beat the living piss out of you.” It actually
started out as, “I’ll beat your daylights out” or “I’ll darken your daylights.”
Over the centuries, additions and substitutions sprang up.
Somewhere in the mid-1800s,
daylights (the plural form) was a colloquial expression for the eyes. The Oxford English Dictionary gives this
citation with a questionable date of 1747: “I shall see
my jolly old Codger by the Tinney-side, I suppose with his Day-Lights dim, and his Trotters shivering under
Green’s History of Slang translates
Tinney-side as fireside. Trotters was a humorous reference to human legs,
though it properly designated quadrupeds.
An 1873 entry makes it quite clear that daylights referred to the eyes: “Why,
hang me,” said Tom Parton, “his daylights are out!” Quite true – he was blind
as a mole.
As daylights receded as slang for eyes, it was replaced by other terms,
especially bodily excretions, for shock effect: “I’ll beat the tar/stuffing/hell/piss/crap/shit out of
you.” Living was inserted as an intensifier. It shared the honor with many
other participle forms: “I’ll beat the blinking/everloving/bleeding/living/f*cking
crap out of you.”
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