Saturday, March 29, 2014

My Dictionaries Word of the Day: FRESH BOILED OWL


By most careful research philologists have learned that many years ago, in colonial times, a Yankee whose provisions had run short in the dead of winter, took his gun and set forth through the snows in search of game to feed his family. His luck was poor, he sighted nothing until near sundown, when he spied a big owl perched on the limb of a blasted pine. He let fly with his gun, got the critter and lugged it home to feed his wife and hungry children. She boiled it and when it came out of the kettle it closely resembled old Uncle Jehosophat when he was in his cups, which was most of the time. From then on, whenever he saw Uncle Jehosophat under the weather, he said he was "as stewed as a fresh boiled owl." The term spread and became common and has endured to this day, an instance of how something that one man said so long ago can become a part of the language. This phenomenon continues to puzzle philologists, although research upon it continues and we may be on the threshold of an important breakthrough in this field of science.

from the Yankee Dictionary by Charles F. Haywood

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