"evil twin"

Charles C Doyle cdoyle at UGA.EDU
Thu Nov 24 14:33:04 UTC 2011

Not an instance or a source, certainly, but an interesting analog of the concept, from Milton's _Areopagitica_ (1644):  "It was from out the rind of one apple tasted that the knowledge of good and evil, as two twins cleaving together, leaped forth into the world. And perhaps this is that doom which Adam fell into of knowing good and evil, that is to say of knowing good by evil."


From: American Dialect Society [ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] on behalf of Jonathan Lighter [wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM]
Sent: Wednesday, November 23, 2011 4:02 PM

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.


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