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Old 12 September 2008, 03:52 PM
Lady Luzhin
 
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Icon402 Origin of 'To cut off your nose to spite your face"?

Anyone know where the old saying of "To cut off your nose to spite your face" came from? I once heard that in the Middle Ages, there was a group of nuns who did disfigure themselves this way in order to be so unattractive that they wouldn't be raped during Viking raids. Anyone else have any idea what the saying means and/or where it came from?
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Old 12 September 2008, 03:59 PM
candy from strangers candy from strangers is offline
 
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Sorry I can't help you, but in a weird coincidence, I was just wondering where the phrase came from last night.
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Old 12 September 2008, 04:14 PM
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Stan The Man Stan The Man is offline
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lady Luzhin View Post
Anyone know where the old saying of "To cut off your nose to spite your face" came from? I once heard that in the Middle Ages, there was a group of nuns who did disfigure themselves this way in order to be so unattractive that they wouldn't be raped during Viking raids. Anyone else have any idea what the saying means and/or where it came from?
Word Detective doesn't mention the nuns.

Quote:
The precise origin of "Don't cut off your nose to spite your face" is slightly fuzzy, but it seems to have first appeared around 1200 as a Latin proverb cited by Peter of Blois, a French poet of the day. The phrase then crops up a bit later in a history of France, written in the mid-17th century, attributed to a courtier who supposedly employed it to deter King Henry IV from destroying Paris to punish the occupants' low opinion of his rule. The proverb apparently didn't really become popular in English until the 19th century.
ETA: And their definition -
Quote:
"Don't cut off your nose to spite your face" is a warning not to act out of pique or pursue revenge in such a way as to damage yourself more than the object of your anger.
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Old 12 September 2008, 04:53 PM
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Richard W Richard W is offline
 
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According to Nigel Rees in A Word In Your Shell-Like: 6,000 Curious And Everyday Phrases Explained:

Quote:
The expression may have originated in 1593 when King Henry IV of France seemed willing to sacrifice the city of Paris because of its citizen's objections to his being monarch. One of his own men had the temerity to suggest that destroying Paris would be like cutting off his nose to spite his face. The phrase seems not to have taken hold in English until the mid-19th Century
Which basically agrees with The Word Detective. Unfortunately it doesn't give sources for this.
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  #5  
Old 13 September 2008, 12:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lady Luzhin View Post
Anyone know where the old saying of "To cut off your nose to spite your face" came from? I once heard that in the Middle Ages, there was a group of nuns who did disfigure themselves this way in order to be so unattractive that they wouldn't be raped during Viking raids. Anyone else have any idea what the saying means and/or where it came from?
The purpose of rape is rarely sexualy gratification. The purpose is to control, dominate, or humiliate the victim. While the rapist may receive gratification from the act, the gratification is not the key element in the same way as harming the victim is. If being unattractive prevented rape, elderly women would never be raped.
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Old 13 September 2008, 09:13 PM
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Surely then the expression would be 'To cut off your nose to spite marauding Nordic rapists'?

Assuming anybody did cut off their nose for that reason, they couldn't be accurately described as having any kind of grudge against their own face. And if, miracle upon miracle, it actually worked in the defence against potential rape then I think it would be a pretty damn good reason to cut off your nose, so the meaning of the phrase wouldn't be applicable.

ETA: It's odd that people want to ascribe literal origins to metaphors and old phrases, as if people in The Olden Days had no concept of the figurative. Um, hello? The Olden Days brought us the unicorn.
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  #7  
Old 13 September 2008, 09:18 PM
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Brad from Georgia Brad from Georgia is offline
 
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I always thought the origin of the phrase involved plastic surgery and Joan Rivers.
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  #8  
Old 14 September 2008, 08:49 AM
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If King Henry did bring the saying home from his trip to Paris, he might have misunderstood its original meaning.

Its French and Latin origin sounds plausible (it does sound as something the Romans would have said), but nowadays it exists in a number of European languages. Its meaning being: if you spite your relatives, you spite your own family and thus yourself.

Of course, Henry IV was King of England and France. In fact, the kingdom of France was of considerably more importance, and the English kings were damn sorry they lost it in the end (exiled on some damp islands off the coast of Europe).
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Old 14 September 2008, 09:02 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DemonWolf View Post
If being unattractive prevented rape, elderly women would never be raped.
I agree with your overall point, but are you really saying that there are no attractive elderly women?
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  #10  
Old 15 September 2008, 03:38 AM
Lady Luzhin
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Simply Madeline View Post
I agree with your overall point, but are you really saying that there are no attractive elderly women?
Helen Merrin looks great for being in her 60s. Julie Andrews too, though I am unsure how old she is.

There are some women who look horrid no matter their age. Angela Lansbury is the Portrait of Dorian Grey looks no different now than she did then.
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