"butter would not melt in her mouth" - where does this saying come from?

The phrase was first recorded in 1530 in John Palsgrave's Lesclarcissement, one of the earliest French grammars written for English speakers: "He maketh as thoughe butter wolde nat melte in his mouthe."

In 1546 the saying was recorded in John Heywood's book of proverbs: "She looketh as butter wouldn't melt in her mouth."

In 1738, in Jonathan Swift's Polite Conversation: "She looks as if butter wouldn't melt in her mouth but I warrant, cheese won't choak her."

The saying refers to someone acting cool, demure, and proper, as to keep butter from melting. However, it has a negative connotation that the person is overly demure and insincere.

Tags: language

Last update:
2008-01-03 14:43
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