Recovering Lazyholic

Photography & Stuff by Erin Hanson

"spitting image", where did you come from?

Education StationErin HansonComment

There are several false explanations circulating about this phrase, probably because the metaphor is not an obvious one. One is that it is a corruption of spirit and image, from the belief that people who looked alike shared a soul. Another is that it is a corruption of splitting image, referring to a person being split into two identical persons. Both of these are incorrect. They are after-the-fact explanations that are not supported by evidence. Instead, the spit is just that, saliva.

The metaphor at work is that of a person spitting out an exact replica of themself. Spitting image dates to 1901. Spitten picture is a bit earlier, dating to 1878. The very spit of is even older, dating to 1825. And use of the metaphor of fathers spitting out look-alike sons dates to at least 1400.-- www.wordorigins.org