bad blood

Discuss word origins and meanings.

bad blood

Post by verygoodboy » Mon Aug 09, 2010 4:18 am

Instinctively, one feels this phrase must be very old. Yet the earliest attestation I can find is Charles Lamb "Essays of Elia" 1823. (I'm still travelling so cannot access my home library).

Can anyone please help?
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Re: "Bad blood"

Post by zmjezhd » Mon Aug 09, 2010 3:49 pm

The earliest citation I find in the OED (first draft revision June 2010) is "1755 E. KIMBER Hist. Life & Adventures James Ramble I. xxvii. 268 Lord George was preparing to give him an answer, that might have created very bad blood between them."
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Re: "Bad blood"

Post by verygoodboy » Mon Aug 09, 2010 4:05 pm

Thank you very much Jim.

This pitches the search for origin into the 18th century but I still have a feeling it's a lot older than that.

Best regards
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Re: "Bad blood"

Post by zmjezhd » Mon Aug 09, 2010 5:16 pm

but I still have a feeling it's a lot older than that.

Why so? Just a hunch? To me it has a kind of 19th century feel to it. Maybe it was a literal translation from another languages. I also wonder if it has anything to do with one of the four humors, i.e., the sanguine.
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Re: "Bad blood"

Post by verygoodboy » Mon Aug 09, 2010 5:34 pm

Yep. Just a hunch, probably misplaced...

Shakespeare uses "cold-blooded" and "hot-blooded" prolifically. I was surprised he never used "bad blood", which does make me think now that it mightn't have been around then. "Bad blood" fits so many of his stories!
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Re: "Bad blood"

Post by Phil White » Mon Aug 09, 2010 8:23 pm

Best I could find is almost a hundred years earlier (14th December 1663).

... Think about it.
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Re: "Bad blood"

Post by Phil White » Mon Aug 09, 2010 9:58 pm

Hollis, our King's Embassador there; and that either upon that score or something else he hath not had his entry yet in Paris, but hath received several affronts, and among others his harnesse cut, and his gentlemen of his
horse killed, which will breed bad blood if true.
The Diary of Samuel Pepys, 14th December 1663
Not often that the OED misses something from Pepys.

I'd guess that James is on the right lines, that it is related to the humours and the early physicians' concept of "bad blood". The distinctions between physical and mental conditions, were not as we "understand" them now, and one's mental state and mood (including, I presume, anger and jealousy) was just as much influenced by the four humours as one's physical state. Of bloodletting, Robert Burton writes:
In letting of blood three main circumstances are to be considered, " Who, how much, when." That is, that it be done to such a one as may endure it, or to whom it may belong, that he be of a competent age, not too young, nor too old, overweak, fat, or lean, sore laboured, but to such as have need, are full of bad blood, noxious humours, and may be eased by it.
The Anatomy of Melancholy, Robert Burton, 1655
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Re: "Bad blood"

Post by verygoodboy » Mon Aug 09, 2010 10:18 pm

My compliments and sincere thanks Phil.

It's not often that we break new etymological ground but that seems to be what you and Jim have done on this occasion. It would appear that the origin is, as you say, based on 17th century medicine and the literal concept of bad, unhealthy blood. In a very short while, certainly by the time of Pepys, it had become figurative too.

I'm in awe, extremely happy and will sleep soundly tonight!
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Re: "Bad blood"

Post by Phil White » Mon Aug 09, 2010 10:26 pm

verygoodboy wrote:It's not often that we break new etymological ground
Wait until Ken gets his teeth into this one. He constantly breaks new etymological ground.

But I wouldn't say the issue is resolved. We have scratched the surface and perhaps have a plausible hypothesis.
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Re: "Bad blood"

Post by Erik_Kowal » Mon Aug 09, 2010 10:40 pm

In adult life Samuel Pepys was known as a bon viveur, but even as a child he exhibited a taste for the luxurious. For instance, he loved to dress up in fine clothes, a habit that earned him the nickname of Little Beau Pepys among his family.
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Re: "Bad blood"

Post by Phil White » Mon Aug 09, 2010 10:43 pm

Oh really? I never knew that.
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Re: "Bad blood"

Post by verygoodboy » Mon Aug 09, 2010 10:46 pm

OK Phil, have it your way!

But I've not read anything more convincing anywhere...

Incidentally, I've found a date for Anatomy of Melancholy as 1621 and Burton died in 1640.
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Re: "Bad blood"

Post by Phil White » Mon Aug 09, 2010 11:01 pm

1655 was merely the date in the Gutenberg copy. I didn't bother to check. Your date is almost certainly correct.

I've also seen that the Spanish "sangre mala" carries the same meaning, so again, James could well be right that it was translated. Indeed, we could be going a lot further back to Hippocrates, Galen & co.
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Re: "Bad blood"

Post by Ken Greenwald » Tue Aug 10, 2010 12:43 am

VGB, For those unfamiliar with the expression BAD BLOOD, the OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY defines it as follows:

BAD BLOOD noun: Ill feeling, animosity, antipathy, as between rival families, organizations, etc.
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And as Jim (a.k.a. zmjezhd) pointed out above, the OED’s earliest quote is from 1755 (see below). However, it seems that the phrase BAD BLOOD had a fraternal twin by the name of ILL BLOOD, with the earliest example I could find dating from 1624 – not that far from your hunch that an expression for ‘not good blood’ was used in Shakespeare’s time. However, I couldn’t find any evidence that Shakespeare himself ever used it.
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OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY

ILL BLOOD noun: Unfriendly or angry feeling, animosity; strife.

BLOOD noun: The supposed seat of emotion, passion; as in ‘it stirs the blood’, ‘it makes the blood creep’ or ‘run cold’, ‘his blood is up’, ‘my blood boils’; whence, Passion, temper, mood, disposition; emphatically, high temper, mettle; anger. Very frequent in Shakespeare: now chiefly in certain phrases, as to breed bad or ill blood: to stir up strife, cause ill-feeling. in cold blood: not in the heat of passion, deliberately.
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So, it appears that both ILL BLOOD and BAD BLOOD were in use, and used interchangeably, (at least for the ‘bad feeling’ meaning) from the 17th century (see Phil’s very surprising 1663 Pepys quote above), through the early 20th century, with ill blood gradually losing ground until its use mostly petered out sometime in the early 20th century (see 1911 quote).
<1624 “Finding this . . . might breed ill bloud.”—The Generall Historie of Virginia, New-England and the Summer Isles by Captain John Smith, page 178>

<circa 1645 “It was fear'd this . . . would have bred ill blood.”—Letters (1655) of J. Howell, I. iii. page 121>

<1703 “This Action . .. bred ill Blood between him and Raleigh.”—Memoirs of Transactions at Sea (1720) by J. Burchett, III. xvii. Page365>

<1704 “Hot words passed . . . and ill Blood was plentifully bred.”— The Battle of the Books (1711) by Jonathan Swift, page 232>

<1755 “Lord George was preparing to give him an answer, that might have created very bad blood between them.”—The History of the Life & Adventures of James Ramble by E. Kimber, I. xxvii. page 268>

<1787 “It would not excite ill blood in me.”—Correspondence (1830) of Thomas Jefferson, page 273>

<1788 “Do not suffer his amorous hyperboles and grimaces to make more bad blood between us.”—Henrietta of Gerstenfeld translated by A. Beuvius, II. lvi. Page70>

<1809 “Thus criminations and recriminations, much ill blood and bickering.”—The Belfast Monthly Magazine, Vol. 2, No. 11, 30 June, page 474>

<1812 “. . . and his conduct in this respect might be productive of very bad blood in the neighbourhood.”—The Belfast Monthly Magazine, Vol. 8, No. 44, 31 March, page 228>

<1813 “the distinction might also be the means of producing a rivalship between the teachers, and if any ill blood were to arise between them, religion in all probability, would be called in as an auxiliary in the quarrel, and all the dire effects of disunion and intolerance be the consequence.”—The Belfast Monthly Magazine, Vol. 10, No. 56, 31 March, page 191>

<1829 “A war was in fact on the eve of breaking out between the two rival powers [[France and England]]. In England the treaty of Amiens had never been cordially received by all parties. Suspicions, and jealousies, and ill blood still existed.”— The North American Review, Vol. 28, No. 63, April, page 400>

<1830 “. . . Mr. Pepper, if there be any ill blood ‘twixt you and the lad there, wash it away . . .”—The Dublin Literary Gazette, No. 20, 15 May, page 307>

<1839 “For ourselves, we see no more objection to an alliance with red men than white men, unless it can be shown to perpetuate bad blood, and produce renewed quarrel.”—The North American Review, Vol. 49, No. 105. October, page 313>

<1841 “These assertions served only to increase the storm of ridicule which was gathering around the old man’s head; and to put a stop to any bad blood which the occasion might call forth . . .”—The Irish Penny Journal, Vol. 1, No. 30, 23 January, page 237>

<1844 “Don't let there be any ill-blood between us, pray.”—Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens, ii>

<1847 “What both did was done openly by them but certain family matters . . . must not be raked up and if once disturbed ill blod will sure be created . . .”—The English Historical Review, Vol. 1, No. 2. April, page 317, 1886>

<1865 “The peace negotiations have been of service in demonstrating that it is not any ill blood engendered by war . . . but simply the slaveholding class, that now stands between us and peace, as four years ago it forced us into war.”—The North American Review, Vol. 100, No. 207, 1 April, page 546>

<1911 “. . . That their introduction is fraught with evil consequences—ill blood and strife.”—The Quarterly of the Oregon Historical Society, Vol. 12, No. 1. March, page 54>
(quotes from the Oxford English Dictionary and archived sources)
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Re: "Bad blood"

Post by verygoodboy » Tue Aug 10, 2010 12:51 am

You are right Phil. We are going right back to earliest times if we accept the concept of bleeding off bad or unhealthy blood. The practice was known to the Mesopotamians and Egyptians before the Greeks (Hippocrates, Galen etc). Not to mention the Chinese, Mayans and Aztecs.

It's mentioned in the Koran, "The prophet Mohammed (PBUH) said how good the bloodletter who relieves the person from bad blood." (Islamic Medicine Forum).

Eventually, in English we get to Burton (1621) but still the literal concept of bad or unhealthy blood.

It seems only with the advent of Pepys (1663) that bad blood "goes figurative".

I told you guys I had a hunch it was old. Not quite THAT OLD though!
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