Joanne M. Despres jdespres at MERRIAM-WEBSTER.COM
Wed Aug 2 16:10:03 UTC 2000

I'm not familiar with any further linguistic examples of the
association between whiteness/coldness and anger, but it would be
interesting  to find out what (if anything) medieval and Renaissance
psychophysiology would have to say about it.  I've looked
through the "pale" entries in a Chaucer concordance and found no
connection between pallor and anger, though there's more than one mention
of paleness in connection with illness, weakness, or fear.
A similar search in a Shakespeare concordance indicates that the Bard
most often  associated whiteness of face with the same
physical/emotional conditions Chaucer did, but also occasionally with envy or
anger ("The moon, the governess of floods, Pale in her anger, washes
all the air" Midsummer Night's Dream ii.1.104; "On whom, as in
despite, the sun looks pale, Killng their fruit with frowns" Henry V,
i.2.203; "This pale and angry rose . . . Will I for ever and my
faction wear" 1 Henry IV ii.1.107; "Your eyes do menace me:  why look
you pale?  Who sent you?" Richard III, i.4.175).

The OED offers this quotation:  "Choleric men
are of a pale or yellowish color." 1634 T. Johnson Parey's Chirurg.
i. vi. 10.  On the other hand, the following two quotations suggest
an  association of choler with hotness and
redness:  " In Aries, the colerik hoote signe." c1386 Chaucer Sqrs.
T. 43; "The common opinion is, that all hot, and choleric Grounds,
are red or brown." 1675 Evelyn Terra (1729) 7.

These associations are admittedly pretty remote from contemporary
ones, but who knows -- they might hint at a tradition of some sort.

Joanne M. Despres
Associate Editor
Merriam-Webster, Inc.
47 Federal St.
Springfield, MA  01102
E-mail:  jdespres at

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