USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘simile’
folk simile
Folk speech

“Cold as a Cucumber” and “Hot as Blue Blazes”

The informant is my grandmother, a Cherokee woman born in 1932. She worked as a nurse for her entire career, though has been retired for sometime.

In this piece, my grandmother talks about two smilies she learned from my grandfather: “cold as a cucumber” and “hot as blue blazes”.

M: Your Aunt said that you can use similes?

Me: Yes, ma’am.

M: I used to say… well, I guess I still say it… I used to say “cold as a cucumber”.

Me: Okay. Do you remember where you first heard it?

M: Your grandpa started saying it, and I then I started saying it ‘cause of him. He probably heard it from one of his brothers when they would work on the farm. He also would say “hot as blue blazes,”

Me: Do you know what that means?

M: No… I don’t think so. I guess I never really thought of what it meant.

Me: I think it means that the blue part of the flame is supposed to be the hottest.

M: Oh… that must be why he said it. Well, he would say both of those things. When you and Alyssa would be coming in out of the rain into our house, daddy would say “These kids are a cold as a cucumber” and give you both big hugs.

Me: I remember that.

M: And when you both would jump out of the shower, or when your mom would have a fever, he’d say “this child is hot as blue blazes!”

Me: So, do you say it because it reminds you of Pa?

M: I say it because he got it stuck in my head, but it does remind me of him.

I directly remember my grandfather using the simile “hot as blue blazes”. When I would get out of the bathtub, my grandfather would tell me that I was “hot as blue blazes”. I think my grandma was honest in the last thing she said: the smilies are stuck in her head, but they’re stuck in her head because of my grandfather. Whether she knows it in the moment or not, she’s reminded of my grandfather when she says “hot as blue blazes”. I directly talk about why the similes make sense: the blue part of the fire is the hottest, so calling something “hot as blue blazes” means whatever you’re about to touch is bound to be really hot.

folk simile
Folk speech

“Mad as a cut snake”

Originally something he heard from his dad, this is a folk simile my informant sometimes uses. He told me his dad spent a lot of time in Australia, which is where he picked it up. It’s used to talk about someone who is angry or annoyed, comparing them to a snake that has been cut. I’d never heard the simile before, but it makes sense, since people always say to be careful around snakes and that disturbing them all could make them angry enough to attack you. Cutting them would provoke an even larger response then. It’s also clear why this came from Australia rather than America, for example; Australia is a place where dangerous snakes are more common.

My informant said he liked the saying because it’s different; he hasn’t heard other people use it really. It also reminds him of his father, a man he loves and respects. I heard him use it once when describing a bar fight which erupted after one man slapped another in the face. The man who had been slapped was embarrassed, since he took it as a shameful thing to be slapped, and he became very angry. My informant said he got as “mad as a cut snake.”