"... sore eyed negroes ..."

Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Mon May 3 14:20:53 UTC 2010

Surely reddened and achy, as one might expect of
tired eyes?  In George Thompson's context, they're perhaps from drinking:

"a real spirit head soaker, six pence, with rot
gut bitters in the morning, and sore eyed negroes at different prices."

The OED says, s.v "sore, a1",
"sore-eyed a., having sore eyes; also applied to
sheath-billed pigeons, which have reddish caruncles round the eyes."

And do I remember a stereotype that "Negroes" have red eyes?


At 5/3/2010 01:34 AM, Wilson Gray wrote:
>= "coloreds with conjunctivitis"?
>WTF *are* "sore eyes," anyway? Till a couple of minutes ago, when I
>tried to google "sore eyes," I had been under the impression that
>"sight for sore eyes" meant "sight that causes pain in one's eyes,"
>used ironically or jokingly as a reverse compliment. Now, I've
>discovered that it means, "sight so pleasant that even *sore* eyes
>enjoy seeing it."
>But that still leaves unanswered the question, WTF are "sore eyes"?
>Is there a literal meaning? I experience pain inside *only* my right
>eyeball as the "shadow" of, or prelude to, a cluster headache.
>Conjunctivitis makes my eyes very itchy, but not sore.
>All say, "How hard it is that we have to die!"­­a strange complaint to
>come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
>­Mark Twain
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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

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