Red-Headed Stepchild

Thu Jun 29 02:20:27 UTC 2006

        There was a discussion last year of "red-headed stepchild,"
especially in the phrase "beat (someone or something) like a red-headed
stepchild."  It turns out to be older than I would have guessed.  The
older examples typically are in a political context, with the oldest I
saw from congressional hearings on Fisheries in Alaska 35 (1924),
apparently quoting a letter from a Judge Wickersham:

        "Still Alaska is only a red-headed step-child, and the older
children want its estate, and they can only get it by stealing."

        This is via Google Book Search, and its unfriendly "Snippet
view" makes it hard to see much, but the 1924 date appears to be

John Baker

The American Dialect Society -

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