Discussion:
the seven-year itch
(too old to reply)
tonbei
2019-01-09 06:33:20 UTC
Permalink
I think it means the seventh year itch.
If so, why don't you say so.

1) the seven year itch
2) the seventh year itch

2) seems more valid than 1).
Athel Cornish-Bowden
2019-01-09 07:20:57 UTC
Permalink
Post by tonbei
I think it means the seventh year itch.
If so, why don't you say so.
1) the seven year itch
2) the seventh year itch
2) seems more valid than 1).
It's an idiom. Idioms are not governed by logic.
--
athel
Peter Young
2019-01-09 07:10:33 UTC
Permalink
Post by tonbei
I think it means the seventh year itch.
If so, why don't you say so.
Because we don't!
Post by tonbei
1) the seven year itch
2) the seventh year itch
2) seems more valid than 1).
It's probably more grammatical, but logic doesn't always come into usage.
2) would sound strange to native speakers, but would be understood.


Peter.
--
Peter Young, (BrE, RP), Consultant Anaesthetist, 1975-2004.
(US equivalent: Certified Anesthesiologist) (AUE Au)
Cheltenham and Gloucester, UK. Now happily retired.
http://pnyoung.orpheusweb.co.uk
Horace LaBadie
2019-01-09 13:39:31 UTC
Permalink
Post by tonbei
I think it means the seventh year itch.
If so, why don't you say so.
1) the seven year itch
2) the seventh year itch
2) seems more valid than 1).
It's the popular name of a skin disease, scabies, caused by a burrowing
mite, one of the symptoms of which is persistent itching.

The stage play (and movie screenplay) with that title is a play on words.
Peter T. Daniels
2019-01-09 13:55:56 UTC
Permalink
Post by Horace LaBadie
Post by tonbei
I think it means the seventh year itch.
If so, why don't you say so.
1) the seven year itch
2) the seventh year itch
2) seems more valid than 1).
It's the popular name of a skin disease, scabies, caused by a burrowing
mite, one of the symptoms of which is persistent itching.
Never have I encountered such a suggestion!
Post by Horace LaBadie
The stage play (and movie screenplay) with that title is a play on words.
The only meaning is that married men tend to get a roving eye after seven
years of marriage.

If it had to do with a skin sensation, would it be an itch that lasts
seven years, or that recurs in a seven-year cycle?

NB subjunctive "had"
Horace LaBadie
2019-01-09 14:36:54 UTC
Permalink
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Horace LaBadie
Post by tonbei
I think it means the seventh year itch.
If so, why don't you say so.
1) the seven year itch
2) the seventh year itch
2) seems more valid than 1).
It's the popular name of a skin disease, scabies, caused by a burrowing
mite, one of the symptoms of which is persistent itching.
Never have I encountered such a suggestion!
Thoreau by way of Axelrod by way of William Safire.

<http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-sev1.htm>
" In 1992, William Safire recorded a conversation he had had with Mr
Axelrod about why he chose the title. The latter was sure that it had
never been used in a marital wanderlust connotation before he borrowed
it:

How did he come across this Americanism? I was writing jokes for a
hillbilly comedian called Rod Brassfield, recalls Mr. Axelrod, who
starred with Minnie Pearl on the Grand Ole Opry radio show. ... One of
his favorite lines was: I know shes over 21 because shes had the
seven-year itch four times! That hideous line, says Mr. Axelrod, now 69,
was running through my head when I was desperately seeking a title for
the play I had just finished ... In the first draft, the guy had been
married 10 years (as had I) but the title, when it came, had a natural
ring to it and I changed the number of years the hero had been married
accordingly.

On Language, New York Times, 29 Mar. 1992."
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Horace LaBadie
The stage play (and movie screenplay) with that title is a play on words.
The only meaning is that married men tend to get a roving eye after seven
years of marriage.
If it had to do with a skin sensation, would it be an itch that lasts
seven years, or that recurs in a seven-year cycle?
NB subjunctive "had"
Peter T. Daniels
2019-01-09 15:01:09 UTC
Permalink
Post by Horace LaBadie
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Horace LaBadie
Post by tonbei
I think it means the seventh year itch.
If so, why don't you say so.
1) the seven year itch
2) the seventh year itch
2) seems more valid than 1).
It's the popular name of a skin disease, scabies, caused by a burrowing
mite, one of the symptoms of which is persistent itching.
Never have I encountered such a suggestion!
Thoreau by way of Axelrod by way of William Safire.
<http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-sev1.htm>
" In 1992, William Safire recorded a conversation he had had with Mr
Axelrod about why he chose the title. The latter was sure that it had
never been used in a marital wanderlust connotation before he borrowed
How did he come across this Americanism? I was writing jokes for a
hillbilly comedian called Rod Brassfield, recalls Mr. Axelrod, who
starred with Minnie Pearl on the Grand Ole Opry radio show. ... One of
his favorite lines was: I know shes over 21 because shes had the
seven-year itch four times! That hideous line, says Mr. Axelrod, now 69,
was running through my head when I was desperately seeking a title for
the play I had just finished ... In the first draft, the guy had been
married 10 years (as had I) but the title, when it came, had a natural
ring to it and I changed the number of years the hero had been married
accordingly.
On Language, New York Times, 29 Mar. 1992."
You've left out any mention of Thoreau.

Mr. Safire had a habit of shooting first and asking questions later. His
biweekly columns were filled with acknowledgments of mistakes that had
been pointed out by readers (including prominent linguist Jim McCawley,
who had a complete set of personally inscribed copies of all the books)
as soon as the previous column appeared (it was in the New York Times
Magazine). If this account be valid, and the playwright really thought
he had never heard the expression used the way he used it, then the
"scabies" sense was highly regional and wouldn't have been familiar to
the general playgoing and moviegoing audience either.
Post by Horace LaBadie
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Horace LaBadie
The stage play (and movie screenplay) with that title is a play on words.
The only meaning is that married men tend to get a roving eye after
seven years of marriage.
If it had to do with a skin sensation, would it be an itch that lasts
seven years, or that recurs in a seven-year cycle?
NB subjunctive "had"
Horace LaBadie
2019-01-09 16:35:35 UTC
Permalink
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Horace LaBadie
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Horace LaBadie
Post by tonbei
I think it means the seventh year itch.
If so, why don't you say so.
1) the seven year itch
2) the seventh year itch
2) seems more valid than 1).
It's the popular name of a skin disease, scabies, caused by a burrowing
mite, one of the symptoms of which is persistent itching.
Never have I encountered such a suggestion!
Thoreau by way of Axelrod by way of William Safire.
<http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-sev1.htm>
" In 1992, William Safire recorded a conversation he had had with Mr
Axelrod about why he chose the title. The latter was sure that it had
never been used in a marital wanderlust connotation before he borrowed
How did he come across this Americanism? I was writing jokes for a
hillbilly comedian called Rod Brassfield, recalls Mr. Axelrod, who
starred with Minnie Pearl on the Grand Ole Opry radio show. ... One of
his favorite lines was: I know shes over 21 because shes had the
seven-year itch four times! That hideous line, says Mr. Axelrod, now 69,
was running through my head when I was desperately seeking a title for
the play I had just finished ... In the first draft, the guy had been
married 10 years (as had I) but the title, when it came, had a natural
ring to it and I changed the number of years the hero had been married
accordingly.
On Language, New York Times, 29 Mar. 1992."
You've left out any mention of Thoreau.
Read the whole article at the link.

"Q From Loren Crispell: In the final chapter of Walden, almost at the
final paragraph, Thoreau refers to mankind as human insects and uses the
phrase the seven year itch. My wife and I were trying to locate the
original use as the author was not in any way referring to relationships
or sexual boredom. Perhaps you can shed some light.

A Well spotted. This example of the phrase is one of the earliest known.
But the sense of Henry Thoreaus text isnt what you might call limpidly
clear to most people today:

There is not one of my readers who has yet lived a whole human life.
These may be but the spring months in the life of the race. If we have
had the seven-years itch, we have not seen the seventeen-year locust yet
in Concord.

Walden, or Life in the Woods, by Henry Thoreau, 1854.

The seven-year itch that he had in mind was an infection by a mite which
lays its eggs in burrows under the skin. Its medical name is scabies,
whose name comes appropriately from Latin scabere, to scratch. It was
once extremely common in all kinds of situations and historical American
sources are full of names for it, among them Indiana itch, Illinois
itch, Jackson itch, Cuban itch, prairie itch, camp itch, army itch, ship
itch, jail itch, mattress itch, swamp itch, winter itch, barley itch and
grain itch."
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Mr. Safire had a habit of shooting first and asking questions later. His
biweekly columns were filled with acknowledgments of mistakes that had
been pointed out by readers (including prominent linguist Jim McCawley,
who had a complete set of personally inscribed copies of all the books)
as soon as the previous column appeared (it was in the New York Times
Magazine). If this account be valid, and the playwright really thought
he had never heard the expression used the way he used it, then the
"scabies" sense was highly regional and wouldn't have been familiar to
the general playgoing and moviegoing audience either.
Regional? Hardly.
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scabies>

"Scabies, also known as the seven-year itch, is a contagious skin
infestation by the mite Sarcoptes scabiei."
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Horace LaBadie
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Horace LaBadie
The stage play (and movie screenplay) with that title is a play on words.
The only meaning is that married men tend to get a roving eye after
seven years of marriage.
If it had to do with a skin sensation, would it be an itch that lasts
seven years, or that recurs in a seven-year cycle?
NB subjunctive "had"
Peter T. Daniels
2019-01-09 19:55:46 UTC
Permalink
Post by Horace LaBadie
Post by Peter T. Daniels
You've left out any mention of Thoreau.
Read the whole article at the link.
"Q From Loren Crispell: In the final chapter of Walden, almost at the
final paragraph, Thoreau refers to mankind as human insects and uses the
phrase the seven year itch. My wife and I were trying to locate the
original use as the author was not in any way referring to relationships
or sexual boredom. Perhaps you can shed some light.
A Well spotted. This example of the phrase is one of the earliest known.
But the sense of Henry Thoreaus text isnt what you might call limpidly
There is not one of my readers who has yet lived a whole human life.
These may be but the spring months in the life of the race. If we have
had the seven-years itch, we have not seen the seventeen-year locust yet
in Concord.
Walden, or Life in the Woods, by Henry Thoreau, 1854.
The seven-year itch that he had in mind was an infection by a mite which
lays its eggs in burrows under the skin. Its medical name is scabies,
whose name comes appropriately from Latin scabere, to scratch. It was
once extremely common in all kinds of situations and historical American
sources are full of names for it, among them Indiana itch, Illinois
itch, Jackson itch, Cuban itch, prairie itch, camp itch, army itch, ship
itch, jail itch, mattress itch, swamp itch, winter itch, barley itch and
grain itch."
That's very nice, but it doesn't help with the origin of the phrase.
Post by Horace LaBadie
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Mr. Safire had a habit of shooting first and asking questions later. His
biweekly columns were filled with acknowledgments of mistakes that had
been pointed out by readers (including prominent linguist Jim McCawley,
who had a complete set of personally inscribed copies of all the books)
as soon as the previous column appeared (it was in the New York Times
Magazine). If this account be valid, and the playwright really thought
he had never heard the expression used the way he used it, then the
"scabies" sense was highly regional and wouldn't have been familiar to
the general playgoing and moviegoing audience either.
Regional? Hardly.
The term is regional, not the affliction.
Post by Horace LaBadie
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scabies>
"Scabies, also known as the seven-year itch, is a contagious skin
infestation by the mite Sarcoptes scabiei."
Also known to whom?

I'll ask again. Does it last seven years, or does it recur at seven-year
intervals?
Post by Horace LaBadie
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Horace LaBadie
The stage play (and movie screenplay) with that title is a play on words.
The only meaning is that married men tend to get a roving eye after
seven years of marriage.
If it had to do with a skin sensation, would it be an itch that lasts
seven years, or that recurs in a seven-year cycle?
NB subjunctive "had"
Horace LaBadie
2019-01-09 20:18:28 UTC
Permalink
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Horace LaBadie
Post by Peter T. Daniels
You've left out any mention of Thoreau.
Read the whole article at the link.
"Q From Loren Crispell: In the final chapter of Walden, almost at the
final paragraph, Thoreau refers to mankind as human insects and uses the
phrase the seven year itch. My wife and I were trying to locate the
original use as the author was not in any way referring to relationships
or sexual boredom. Perhaps you can shed some light.
A Well spotted. This example of the phrase is one of the earliest known.
But the sense of Henry Thoreaus text isnt what you might call limpidly
There is not one of my readers who has yet lived a whole human life.
These may be but the spring months in the life of the race. If we have
had the seven-years itch, we have not seen the seventeen-year locust yet
in Concord.
Walden, or Life in the Woods, by Henry Thoreau, 1854.
The seven-year itch that he had in mind was an infection by a mite which
lays its eggs in burrows under the skin. Its medical name is scabies,
whose name comes appropriately from Latin scabere, to scratch. It was
once extremely common in all kinds of situations and historical American
sources are full of names for it, among them Indiana itch, Illinois
itch, Jackson itch, Cuban itch, prairie itch, camp itch, army itch, ship
itch, jail itch, mattress itch, swamp itch, winter itch, barley itch and
grain itch."
That's very nice, but it doesn't help with the origin of the phrase.
How many folk expressions can be traced to their origin?
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Horace LaBadie
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Mr. Safire had a habit of shooting first and asking questions later. His
biweekly columns were filled with acknowledgments of mistakes that had
been pointed out by readers (including prominent linguist Jim McCawley,
who had a complete set of personally inscribed copies of all the books)
as soon as the previous column appeared (it was in the New York Times
Magazine). If this account be valid, and the playwright really thought
he had never heard the expression used the way he used it, then the
"scabies" sense was highly regional and wouldn't have been familiar to
the general playgoing and moviegoing audience either.
Regional? Hardly.
The term is regional, not the affliction.
Post by Horace LaBadie
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scabies>
"Scabies, also known as the seven-year itch, is a contagious skin
infestation by the mite Sarcoptes scabiei."
Also known to whom?
To whomever wrote the first sentence of the Wikipedia entry, obviously.
And to the source that is quoted by the author of that sentence.(S.
Brett Sloan, M.D. and Sandra S. Oswald, M.D., authors of Ectoparasites
in the linked Wiki source.)

"It has masqueraded under the terms seven-year itch and army itch;"
Post by Peter T. Daniels
I'll ask again. Does it last seven years, or does it recur at seven-year
intervals?
The folk expression originally signified that it was so severe and
chronic that it lasted seven years. This evolved over time to the belief
that it was cyclical, recurring in seven years. So both.
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Horace LaBadie
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Horace LaBadie
The stage play (and movie screenplay) with that title is a play on
words.
The only meaning is that married men tend to get a roving eye after
seven years of marriage.
If it had to do with a skin sensation, would it be an itch that lasts
seven years, or that recurs in a seven-year cycle?
NB subjunctive "had"
Horace LaBadie
2019-01-09 21:08:35 UTC
Permalink
Post by Horace LaBadie
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Horace LaBadie
Post by Peter T. Daniels
You've left out any mention of Thoreau.
Read the whole article at the link.
"Q From Loren Crispell: In the final chapter of Walden, almost at the
final paragraph, Thoreau refers to mankind as human insects and uses the
phrase the seven year itch. My wife and I were trying to locate the
original use as the author was not in any way referring to relationships
or sexual boredom. Perhaps you can shed some light.
A Well spotted. This example of the phrase is one of the earliest known.
But the sense of Henry Thoreaus text isnt what you might call limpidly
There is not one of my readers who has yet lived a whole human life.
These may be but the spring months in the life of the race. If we have
had the seven-years itch, we have not seen the seventeen-year locust yet
in Concord.
Walden, or Life in the Woods, by Henry Thoreau, 1854.
The seven-year itch that he had in mind was an infection by a mite which
lays its eggs in burrows under the skin. Its medical name is scabies,
whose name comes appropriately from Latin scabere, to scratch. It was
once extremely common in all kinds of situations and historical American
sources are full of names for it, among them Indiana itch, Illinois
itch, Jackson itch, Cuban itch, prairie itch, camp itch, army itch, ship
itch, jail itch, mattress itch, swamp itch, winter itch, barley itch and
grain itch."
That's very nice, but it doesn't help with the origin of the phrase.
How many folk expressions can be traced to their origin?
Apparently, the term was known in England in the mid-nineteenth century,
at least sufficiently well that Sydney Smith could make a joke about it,
and Harpers could report the anecdote in 1855.

"Lady Holland's Life of her father, Sydney Smith, just published by
Harpers, overflows with the good things said, and said to be said, by
the clerical wit; but it has nothing better to it than the following:

'Lady Cubebs had a great passion for the garden and the hot-house, and
when she got hold of a celebrity like the Reverend Sydney, was sure to
dilate upon her favorite subject. Her geraniums, her auriculas, dahlias,
her carnations, acacias, her lillia regia, her ranunuculus, her
marygolds, her peonies, her rhododendron procumbens. Mossy pompons and
rose pusbescens, were discussed with all the flow of hot-house rhetoric.
"My Lady," asked the reverend wit, "did you ever have Psoriasis
septennis?" "Oh yes -- a most b-e-a-u-tiful one. I gave it to the
Archbishop of Canterbury, dear man! and it came out so in the spring!"

The psoriasis septennis is the medical term for the seven year itch."

<https://books.google.com/books?id=64s9AAAAYAAJ&pg=PA568&lpg=PA568&dq=Sid
ney+Smith+Psoriasis+septennis&source=bl&ots=TTRM_oYTT4&sig=O6VP9fsEr5eSa2
_R3FLn3zkAsOM&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjm1PTbyOHfAhVmhq0KHW95C-IQ6AEwCXoECBE
QAQ#v=onepage&q=Sidney%20Smith%20Psoriasis%20septennis&f=false>
<http://tinyurl.com/ybgtoyc4>
Post by Horace LaBadie
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Horace LaBadie
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Mr. Safire had a habit of shooting first and asking questions later. His
biweekly columns were filled with acknowledgments of mistakes that had
been pointed out by readers (including prominent linguist Jim McCawley,
who had a complete set of personally inscribed copies of all the books)
as soon as the previous column appeared (it was in the New York Times
Magazine). If this account be valid, and the playwright really thought
he had never heard the expression used the way he used it, then the
"scabies" sense was highly regional and wouldn't have been familiar to
the general playgoing and moviegoing audience either.
Regional? Hardly.
The term is regional, not the affliction.
Post by Horace LaBadie
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scabies>
"Scabies, also known as the seven-year itch, is a contagious skin
infestation by the mite Sarcoptes scabiei."
Also known to whom?
To whomever wrote the first sentence of the Wikipedia entry, obviously.
And to the source that is quoted by the author of that sentence.(S.
Brett Sloan, M.D. and Sandra S. Oswald, M.D., authors of Ectoparasites
in the linked Wiki source.)
"It has masqueraded under the terms seven-year itch and army itch;"
Post by Peter T. Daniels
I'll ask again. Does it last seven years, or does it recur at seven-year
intervals?
The folk expression originally signified that it was so severe and
chronic that it lasted seven years. This evolved over time to the belief
that it was cyclical, recurring in seven years. So both.
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Horace LaBadie
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Horace LaBadie
The stage play (and movie screenplay) with that title is a play on
words.
The only meaning is that married men tend to get a roving eye after
seven years of marriage.
If it had to do with a skin sensation, would it be an itch that lasts
seven years, or that recurs in a seven-year cycle?
NB subjunctive "had"
Peter T. Daniels
2019-01-09 21:31:48 UTC
Permalink
Post by Horace LaBadie
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Horace LaBadie
Post by Peter T. Daniels
You've left out any mention of Thoreau.
Read the whole article at the link.
"Q From Loren Crispell: In the final chapter of Walden, almost at the
final paragraph, Thoreau refers to mankind as human insects and uses the
phrase the seven year itch. My wife and I were trying to locate the
original use as the author was not in any way referring to relationships
or sexual boredom. Perhaps you can shed some light.
A Well spotted. This example of the phrase is one of the earliest known.
But the sense of Henry Thoreaus text isnt what you might call limpidly
There is not one of my readers who has yet lived a whole human life.
These may be but the spring months in the life of the race. If we have
had the seven-years itch, we have not seen the seventeen-year locust yet
in Concord.
Walden, or Life in the Woods, by Henry Thoreau, 1854.
The seven-year itch that he had in mind was an infection by a mite which
lays its eggs in burrows under the skin. Its medical name is scabies,
whose name comes appropriately from Latin scabere, to scratch. It was
once extremely common in all kinds of situations and historical American
sources are full of names for it, among them Indiana itch, Illinois
itch, Jackson itch, Cuban itch, prairie itch, camp itch, army itch, ship
itch, jail itch, mattress itch, swamp itch, winter itch, barley itch and
grain itch."
That's very nice, but it doesn't help with the origin of the phrase.
How many folk expressions can be traced to their origin?
But the passage was cited as though it would be elucidatory -- at least
as to what Thoreau was referring to. "Scabies" may simply be an editor's
guess, since no reason is offered for the interpretation.
Post by Horace LaBadie
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Horace LaBadie
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Mr. Safire had a habit of shooting first and asking questions later. His
biweekly columns were filled with acknowledgments of mistakes that had
been pointed out by readers (including prominent linguist Jim McCawley,
who had a complete set of personally inscribed copies of all the books)
as soon as the previous column appeared (it was in the New York Times
Magazine). If this account be valid, and the playwright really thought
he had never heard the expression used the way he used it, then the
"scabies" sense was highly regional and wouldn't have been familiar to
the general playgoing and moviegoing audience either.
Regional? Hardly.
The term is regional, not the affliction.
Post by Horace LaBadie
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scabies>
"Scabies, also known as the seven-year itch, is a contagious skin
infestation by the mite Sarcoptes scabiei."
Also known to whom?
To whomever wrote the first sentence of the Wikipedia entry, obviously.
whoever
Post by Horace LaBadie
And to the source that is quoted by the author of that sentence.(S.
Brett Sloan, M.D. and Sandra S. Oswald, M.D., authors of Ectoparasites
in the linked Wiki source.)
"It has masqueraded under the terms seven-year itch and army itch;"
We just saw in the case of "homophobia" how good medical personages are
at matters of etymology.
Post by Horace LaBadie
Post by Peter T. Daniels
I'll ask again. Does it last seven years, or does it recur at seven-year
intervals?
The folk expression originally signified that it was so severe and
chronic that it lasted seven years. This evolved over time to the belief
that it was cyclical, recurring in seven years. So both.
How sad. Seventeen-year cicadas do show up for a short time every 17 yr.
Post by Horace LaBadie
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Horace LaBadie
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Horace LaBadie
The stage play (and movie screenplay) with that title is a play on
words.
The only meaning is that married men tend to get a roving eye after
seven years of marriage.
If it had to do with a skin sensation, would it be an itch that lasts
seven years, or that recurs in a seven-year cycle?
NB subjunctive "had"
Horace LaBadie
2019-01-09 23:18:24 UTC
Permalink
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Horace LaBadie
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Horace LaBadie
Post by Peter T. Daniels
You've left out any mention of Thoreau.
Read the whole article at the link.
"Q From Loren Crispell: In the final chapter of Walden, almost at the
final paragraph, Thoreau refers to mankind as human insects and uses the
phrase the seven year itch. My wife and I were trying to locate the
original use as the author was not in any way referring to relationships
or sexual boredom. Perhaps you can shed some light.
A Well spotted. This example of the phrase is one of the earliest known.
But the sense of Henry Thoreaus text isnt what you might call limpidly
There is not one of my readers who has yet lived a whole human life.
These may be but the spring months in the life of the race. If we have
had the seven-years itch, we have not seen the seventeen-year locust yet
in Concord.
Walden, or Life in the Woods, by Henry Thoreau, 1854.
The seven-year itch that he had in mind was an infection by a mite which
lays its eggs in burrows under the skin. Its medical name is scabies,
whose name comes appropriately from Latin scabere, to scratch. It was
once extremely common in all kinds of situations and historical American
sources are full of names for it, among them Indiana itch, Illinois
itch, Jackson itch, Cuban itch, prairie itch, camp itch, army itch, ship
itch, jail itch, mattress itch, swamp itch, winter itch, barley itch and
grain itch."
That's very nice, but it doesn't help with the origin of the phrase.
How many folk expressions can be traced to their origin?
But the passage was cited as though it would be elucidatory -- at least
as to what Thoreau was referring to. "Scabies" may simply be an editor's
guess, since no reason is offered for the interpretation.
The insect reference is clearly an indication.
But the origin was never the point, merely the fact of a different usage
prior to Axelrod's play.
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Horace LaBadie
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Horace LaBadie
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Mr. Safire had a habit of shooting first and asking questions later. His
biweekly columns were filled with acknowledgments of mistakes that had
been pointed out by readers (including prominent linguist Jim McCawley,
who had a complete set of personally inscribed copies of all the books)
as soon as the previous column appeared (it was in the New York Times
Magazine). If this account be valid, and the playwright really thought
he had never heard the expression used the way he used it, then the
"scabies" sense was highly regional and wouldn't have been familiar to
the general playgoing and moviegoing audience either.
Regional? Hardly.
The term is regional, not the affliction.
Post by Horace LaBadie
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scabies>
"Scabies, also known as the seven-year itch, is a contagious skin
infestation by the mite Sarcoptes scabiei."
Also known to whom?
To whomever wrote the first sentence of the Wikipedia entry, obviously.
whoever
Post by Horace LaBadie
And to the source that is quoted by the author of that sentence.(S.
Brett Sloan, M.D. and Sandra S. Oswald, M.D., authors of Ectoparasites
in the linked Wiki source.)
"It has masqueraded under the terms seven-year itch and army itch;"
We just saw in the case of "homophobia" how good medical personages are
at matters of etymology.
Post by Horace LaBadie
Post by Peter T. Daniels
I'll ask again. Does it last seven years, or does it recur at seven-year
intervals?
The folk expression originally signified that it was so severe and
chronic that it lasted seven years. This evolved over time to the belief
that it was cyclical, recurring in seven years. So both.
How sad. Seventeen-year cicadas do show up for a short time every 17 yr.
Post by Horace LaBadie
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Horace LaBadie
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Horace LaBadie
The stage play (and movie screenplay) with that title is a play
on
words.
The only meaning is that married men tend to get a roving eye after
seven years of marriage.
If it had to do with a skin sensation, would it be an itch that
lasts
seven years, or that recurs in a seven-year cycle?
NB subjunctive "had"
Peter Moylan
2019-01-10 03:04:58 UTC
Permalink
Post by Horace LaBadie
A Well spotted. This example of the phrase is one of the earliest
known. But the sense of Henry Thoreaus text isnt what you might call
There is not one of my readers who has yet lived a whole human life.
These may be but the spring months in the life of the race. If we
have had the seven-years itch, we have not seen the seventeen-year
locust yet in Concord.
A little-known fact about cidadas, and other insects whose young remain
underground for years before hatching, is that the time in the
underground phase is usually a prime number of years.

This is a good example of evolutionary selection. The ones who stayed
underground for a composite number of years had a higher probability of
coming up in phase with their predators, so were more likely to be wiped
out.

Adders aren't the only mathematically gifted species.
--
Peter Moylan http://www.pmoylan.org
Newcastle, NSW, Australia
Athel Cornish-Bowden
2019-01-10 06:15:31 UTC
Permalink
Post by Peter Moylan
Post by Horace LaBadie
A Well spotted. This example of the phrase is one of the earliest
known. But the sense of Henry Thoreaus text isnt what you might call
There is not one of my readers who has yet lived a whole human life.
These may be but the spring months in the life of the race. If we
have had the seven-years itch, we have not seen the seventeen-year
locust yet in Concord.
A little-known fact about cidadas, and other insects whose young remain
underground for years before hatching, is that the time in the
underground phase is usually a prime number of years.
Not even a "simple" prime like 3 or 5, but 17 or 19.
Post by Peter Moylan
This is a good example of evolutionary selection. The ones who stayed
underground for a composite number of years had a higher probability of
coming up in phase with their predators, so were more likely to be wiped
out.
Adders aren't the only mathematically gifted species.
--
athel
Peter T. Daniels
2019-01-10 06:19:55 UTC
Permalink
Post by Peter Moylan
Post by Horace LaBadie
A Well spotted. This example of the phrase is one of the earliest
known. But the sense of Henry Thoreaus text isnt what you might call
There is not one of my readers who has yet lived a whole human life.
These may be but the spring months in the life of the race. If we
have had the seven-years itch, we have not seen the seventeen-year
locust yet in Concord.
A little-known fact about cidadas, and other insects whose young remain
underground for years before hatching, is that the time in the
underground phase is usually a prime number of years.
It's sufficiently known in places that have 17-year cicadas that it was
included in many feature stories anticipating and during their appearance.
I was only in Chicago for one such cycle, but it was extremely impressive.

It's been said that there are several clusters of them in the New York
area but they're on different cycles, so only small areas experience
them so they're less noticeable. This past summer, a lot of trees within
a few blocks of me (off the main street with lots of traffic) were buzzing
loudly, so we may have been having some such emergence.
Post by Peter Moylan
This is a good example of evolutionary selection. The ones who stayed
underground for a composite number of years had a higher probability of
coming up in phase with their predators, so were more likely to be wiped
out.
Adders aren't the only mathematically gifted species.
Amoebae multiply by division.
Athel Cornish-Bowden
2019-01-09 19:58:15 UTC
Permalink
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Horace LaBadie
Post by tonbei
I think it means the seventh year itch.
If so, why don't you say so.
1) the seven year itch
2) the seventh year itch
2) seems more valid than 1).
It's the popular name of a skin disease, scabies, caused by a burrowing
mite, one of the symptoms of which is persistent itching.
Never have I encountered such a suggestion!
Post by Horace LaBadie
The stage play (and movie screenplay) with that title is a play on words.
The only meaning is that married men tend to get a roving eye after seven
years of marriage.
That's the theory, but I think seven years has nothing to do with. Some
men develop a roving eye at puberty and never lose it, others are
strictly monogamous, and everything in between is observed.
Post by Peter T. Daniels
If it had to do with a skin sensation, would it be an itch that lasts
seven years, or that recurs in a seven-year cycle?
NB subjunctive "had"
--
athel
Peter T. Daniels
2019-01-09 20:04:34 UTC
Permalink
Post by Athel Cornish-Bowden
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Horace LaBadie
Post by tonbei
I think it means the seventh year itch.
If so, why don't you say so.
1) the seven year itch
2) the seventh year itch
2) seems more valid than 1).
It's the popular name of a skin disease, scabies, caused by a burrowing
mite, one of the symptoms of which is persistent itching.
Never have I encountered such a suggestion!
Post by Horace LaBadie
The stage play (and movie screenplay) with that title is a play on words.
The only meaning is that married men tend to get a roving eye after
seven years of marriage.
That's the theory, but I think seven years has nothing to do with. Some
men develop a roving eye at puberty and never lose it, others are
strictly monogamous, and everything in between is observed.
That's like saying that people don't actually kick buckets when they die.
Idioms are not to be interpreted literally. That's what makes the bit in
*It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World* funny.
Post by Athel Cornish-Bowden
Post by Peter T. Daniels
If it had to do with a skin sensation, would it be an itch that lasts
seven years, or that recurs in a seven-year cycle?
NB subjunctive "had"
Quinn C
2019-01-11 22:24:24 UTC
Permalink
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Athel Cornish-Bowden
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Horace LaBadie
The stage play (and movie screenplay) with that title is a play on words.
The only meaning is that married men tend to get a roving eye after
seven years of marriage.
That's the theory, but I think seven years has nothing to do with. Some
men develop a roving eye at puberty and never lose it, others are
strictly monogamous, and everything in between is observed.
That's like saying that people don't actually kick buckets when they die.
Idioms are not to be interpreted literally. That's what makes the bit in
*It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World* funny.
it might be true on average:

| The average length of a first marriage that ends in divorce is 8 years.

<https://www.mckinleyirvin.com/family-law-blog/2012/october/32-shocking-divorce-statistics/>

I feel seriously undershocked by this, though.
--
- It's the title search for the Rachel property.
Guess who owns it?
- Tell me it's not that bastard Donald Trump.
-- Gilmore Girls, S02E08 (2001)
Cheryl
2019-01-09 14:06:26 UTC
Permalink
Post by Horace LaBadie
Post by tonbei
I think it means the seventh year itch.
If so, why don't you say so.
1) the seven year itch
2) the seventh year itch
2) seems more valid than 1).
It's the popular name of a skin disease, scabies, caused by a burrowing
mite, one of the symptoms of which is persistent itching.
The stage play (and movie screenplay) with that title is a play on words.
I always heard "the itch" as the popular name of the skin disease, and
"the seven-year-itch" as referring to the unrelated idea that some
people get an itch for more variety after being in a monogamous
relationship for some years.
--
Cheryl
Mark Brader
2019-01-15 05:28:07 UTC
Permalink
Post by Horace LaBadie
It's the popular name of a skin disease, scabies, caused by a burrowing
mite, one of the symptoms of which is persistent itching.
The stage play (and movie screenplay) with that title is a play on words.
A few hours ago it became the subject of the Final Jeopardy!
question on "Jeopardy!". In the category "FAMILIAR PHRASES",
they asked:

ORIGINALLY A FOLK TERM FOR A CHRONIC RASH,
THIS PHRASE GOT A NEW MEANING AS A TITLE
FOR A 1952 STAGE COMEDY & LATER A MOVIE

(All three contestants got it right.)
--
Mark Brader "I think [they] wanted ... us ... to try [them] out
Toronto and then tell the world how good they are, and
***@vex.net it's tempting to do just that." -- Steve Summit
Horace LaBadie
2019-01-15 06:02:11 UTC
Permalink
Post by Mark Brader
Post by Horace LaBadie
It's the popular name of a skin disease, scabies, caused by a burrowing
mite, one of the symptoms of which is persistent itching.
The stage play (and movie screenplay) with that title is a play on words.
A few hours ago it became the subject of the Final Jeopardy!
question on "Jeopardy!". In the category "FAMILIAR PHRASES",
ORIGINALLY A FOLK TERM FOR A CHRONIC RASH,
THIS PHRASE GOT A NEW MEANING AS A TITLE
FOR A 1952 STAGE COMEDY & LATER A MOVIE
(All three contestants got it right.)
You cannot get more definitive than Jeopardy !
Snidely
2019-01-16 09:59:56 UTC
Permalink
Lo, on the 1/14/2019, Horace LaBadie did proclaim ...
Post by Horace LaBadie
Post by Mark Brader
Post by Horace LaBadie
It's the popular name of a skin disease, scabies, caused by a burrowing
mite, one of the symptoms of which is persistent itching.
The stage play (and movie screenplay) with that title is a play on words.
A few hours ago it became the subject of the Final Jeopardy!
question on "Jeopardy!". In the category "FAMILIAR PHRASES",
ORIGINALLY A FOLK TERM FOR A CHRONIC RASH,
THIS PHRASE GOT A NEW MEANING AS A TITLE
FOR A 1952 STAGE COMEDY & LATER A MOVIE
(All three contestants got it right.)
You cannot get more definitive than Jeopardy !
I am, of course, pretending your comment was serious sarcasm (as
opposed to mock sarcasm) when I reply, "I don't think that's what Mark
meant."

/dps
--
Killing a mouse was hardly a Nobel Prize-worthy exercise, and Lawrence
went apopleptic when he learned a lousy rodent had peed away all his
precious heavy water.
_The Disappearing Spoon_, Sam Kean
Madrigal Gurneyhalt
2019-01-09 14:03:06 UTC
Permalink
Post by tonbei
I think it means the seventh year itch.
If so, why don't you say so.
1) the seven year itch
2) the seventh year itch
2) seems more valid than 1).
No it doesn't. If you develop said itch after seven years it must
be the eight year itch, innit!
Peter Duncanson [BrE]
2019-01-09 20:52:37 UTC
Permalink
On Wed, 9 Jan 2019 06:03:06 -0800 (PST), Madrigal Gurneyhalt
Post by Madrigal Gurneyhalt
Post by tonbei
I think it means the seventh year itch.
If so, why don't you say so.
1) the seven year itch
2) the seventh year itch
2) seems more valid than 1).
No it doesn't. If you develop said itch after seven years it must
be the eight year itch, innit!
Perhaps the eighth year itch.
--
Peter Duncanson, UK
(in alt.usage.english)
b***@aol.com
2019-01-09 19:25:50 UTC
Permalink
Post by tonbei
I think it means the seventh year itch.
If so, why don't you say so.
1) the seven year itch
2) the seventh year itch
2) seems more valid than 1).
Not necessarily, as 2) could refer to a phenomenon that happens only
in the seventh year, whereas 1) suggests a seven-year period of time
has elapsed before the phenomenon occurs - which is the case.
Peter Moylan
2019-01-10 03:07:20 UTC
Permalink
Post by b***@aol.com
I think it means the seventh year itch. If so, why don't you say
so.
1) the seven year itch 2) the seventh year itch
2) seems more valid than 1).
Not necessarily, as 2) could refer to a phenomenon that happens only
in the seventh year, whereas 1) suggests a seven-year period of time
has elapsed before the phenomenon occurs - which is the case.
Version 1) also allows the possibility that the phenomenon recurs after
14, 21, 28, ... years.
--
Peter Moylan http://www.pmoylan.org
Newcastle, NSW, Australia
b***@aol.com
2019-01-10 05:05:45 UTC
Permalink
Post by Peter Moylan
Post by b***@aol.com
I think it means the seventh year itch. If so, why don't you say
so.
1) the seven year itch 2) the seventh year itch
2) seems more valid than 1).
Not necessarily, as 2) could refer to a phenomenon that happens only
in the seventh year, whereas 1) suggests a seven-year period of time
has elapsed before the phenomenon occurs - which is the case.
Version 1) also allows the possibility that the phenomenon recurs after
14, 21, 28, ... years.
On Sabbatical years?
Post by Peter Moylan
--
Peter Moylan http://www.pmoylan.org
Newcastle, NSW, Australia
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