"Till hell freezes over!"

Bapopik at AOL.COM Bapopik at AOL.COM
Tue Aug 17 05:26:26 UTC 1999

done every one of these?) has this on page 337:

_Till hell freezes over._  This anonymous saying has been traced back to the
1910s-1920s.  P. G. Wodehouse (1881-1975) was among the first to use the
saying.  F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940) used to end his letters with "Yours
till hell freezes over."  _Until_ may substitute for _till_.  The saying is
listed in the 1989 collection _Modern Proverbs and Proverbial Sayings_ by
Bartlett Jere Whiting.*** (Three stars=very frequent use--ed.)

     Eric Partridge's A DICTIONARY OF CATCH PHRASES has:

_'til (or till) hell freezes over_ is a c.p. letter-ending: ? originally
Canadian: late C19-20; little used after c. 1940 and, by 1975, virtually
obsolete.  Cf--indeed, see--_yours to a cinder_.

     I disagree strongly--it's not "Canadian" and certainly not "virtually
obsolete."  Jonathon Green's DICTIONARY OF SLANG has "(1910s+) for a very
long or indefinite time."
     This is from the NEW YORK TRIBUNE, 5 March 1868 (I was looking for
"carpetbagger"), pg. 4, col. 6:

     A Conservative State Convention in North Carolina has nominated Zebulon
B. Vance for Governor, and for minor offices men of his political stripe.  As
nothing can give a more satisfactory illustration of a man's opinions than
his own words, we take the liberty of putting ex-Gov. Vance in the
witness-box.  Listen to Zebulon B. Vance as he addresses a regiment of
Confederate soldiers:
     "Boys, fight till hell freezes over, and then fight on the ice."  "Fight
until you fill hell so full of Yankees that their feet will stick out the
windows." (...)

     In early 1995, I went to North Carolina to do some research for my
historical play based on Albion Tourgee's A FOOL'S ERRAND.  A wonderful
drawing by "O. Henry" of the "carpetbagger" Tourgee is in the Greensboro
historical museum.
    A Civil War speech by this same North Carolina Governor Zebulon B. Vance
is responsible for popularizing the nickname "Tar Heel."  Did I post that?

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