colder than a witch's tit

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Fri Apr 1 20:52:52 UTC 2005

The perfectly chaste "boner" in "pull a boner" is from "bonehead play," so far as anybody can tell.  HDAS isn't at hand, but my recollection of the time frame for the other "boner" matches yours.

It should be older, however, since recent unpublished evidence traces the syn. ithyphallic "bone" back to around 1900.

BTW, the student phrase "to bone up on" should soon be heading for the Last Round-Up, because it now sounds weirdly sexual.  Who today, with a straight face, could say, "I'm going to bone up on economics" ?


Wilson Gray <wilson.gray at RCN.COM> wrote:
---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: Wilson Gray
Subject: Re: colder than a witch's tit

On Apr 1, 2005, at 1:45 PM, Mark A. Mandel wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender: American Dialect Society
> Poster: "Mark A. Mandel"
> Subject: Re: colder than a witch's tit
> -----------------------------------------------------------------------
> --------
> dInIs contributes:
> Colder'n a witch's tit in a brass bra on a frosty Halloween
> and
> Colder'n a well-digger's ass in the Klondike
> <<<
> My equal time version is "colder than a warlock's wand".
> -- Mark
> [This text prepared with Dragon NaturallySpeaking.]

I first heard this one when I was grad student. I found it totally
apropos at the time and I still like it:

"Colder than a landlord's heart."

FWIW, I've also heard boners referred to "as harder than a landlord's

Speaking of "boners," what's up with the phrase, "pull a boner"? I've
known this phrase with the meaning, "make an egregious error" for as
far back as I can remember. But it wasn't till 1969 that I first heard
the term "boner" used outside of "pull a ..." as an independent word
and in its ithyphallic sense. OTOH, I've been familiar with the phrase,
"on the bone," with the meaning "ithyphallic" since I was in grade
school, i.e. pre-1950.

BTW, the question here is whether there's any connection between these
two boners.

-Wilson Gray

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