"evil twin"

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Wed Nov 23 21:02:20 UTC 2011

Another vocabularian shocker.

No 19th C. GB hits on "evil twin" in the modern sense of the evil
complement of a good twin.

In fact, there's only one "evil twin" at all: an 1873 observation in
the _Phrenological Journal_ that alcohol and tobacco are evil twins of
each other.

The modern sense of "evil twin" might begin here:

1908 Susan E. Blow _Educational Issues in the Kindergarten_  (N.Y.:
Appleton) 97: The typical hero, son of a god, one of twins....The evil
twin apprises us that man's imagination is haunted by his double
selfhood, and the struggle between him and his nobler brother
celebrates that holy war wherein the soul is at once hero and

[Kindergarten had become less sophisticated by the 1950s.]

1913 T. Proctor Hall in _The Monist_ XXIII 98: If the creator of life
cannot overcome his evil twin, or cannot destroy Satan,
or cannot prevent "delusions of mortal mind," these causes of evil, he
is not omnipotent. If he can but will not, he is not good.

The world doesn't seem to have been much interested in "evil twins"
till the 1980s and later. There are 12,000 [!] GB hits in the 21st C.

"If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

More information about the Ads-l mailing list