ice to Eskimos

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Fri Aug 9 17:35:25 UTC 2013

In isolation, I think "pointless", as in "bringing coals to
Newcastle".  Victor, have you seen contexts with that sense?

My topmost hit on Google is "Ice to the Eskimos: How to Market a
Product Nobody Wants [Jon Spoelstra] on"

Thus in the "selling" rather than the "bringing" context, the meaning
seems to have extended from "one couldn't" to "inducing" an
unnecessary purchase.

But (2) below doesn't make sense to me.  Eskimos would not normally
be expected to be easy sales for ice.


At 8/9/2013 01:00 PM, Victor Steinbok wrote:
>I've been puzzling over hearing that phrase sometimes. There are two
>context, directly opposite:
>1) He's such a good salesman, he can sell ice to Eskimos.
>2) He's a marketing nightmare. He couldn't sell ice to Eskimos.
>My intuitive guess (no research to speak of so far) is that (1) was
>first and it somehow flipped in some minds, along the lines of
>"couldn't-->could care less".
>Any thoughts, research?
>     VS-)
>The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

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