Saturday, February 14, 2015

"Coal In the Mouth" or "Coal on the Tongue" Phrase

Has anyone found the origin of this phrase, or where it was used?

A hint....

it is becoming more and more applicable in our day, in the United States.

32 comments:

Sus said...

Your hint is confusing me. I don't know what coal in the mouth is, but I always thought coal TO the mouth was a good thing. Isn't it in the Bible? To purify words or sin?? Angels put coal to your mouth? See all these question marks! I don't know.

john said...

I can't find anything regarding that phrase/saying.

Could it possible be, someone who swears or has a foul mouth, thus their tongue is filthy.

Peter Hyatt said...

Sus...

did you try google???

I have not, so....

well, maybe.

It is actually an expression that makes sense.

Try google translate and try German.

Sus said...

Yes, I googled it and tried urban dictionary. Don't go there! Not good. But one interesting definition was the butt of a cigarette. I never knew that.

Anonymous said...

The Pharoh put baby Moses to a test to satisfy his superstition of young Moses. Two bowls were placed before Moses one of gold and jewels one of hot coals. Moses reached for the gold but an angel redirected him to the coals. He picked one up and placed it to his lips. He was burned but his life was spared. It is because of this Moses was said to be able to speak the word of God

Buckley said...

I see something where the context implies words that are fleeting or meaningless, like it's a writer's responsibility to give characters meaningful dialogue so their words are not coal in the mouth.

Sus said...

I found what I was thinking of. Isaiah had a vision where he was at the throne of God. He had unclean lips. I suppose that means he didn't tell the truth?? A Seraphim brought a coal to him, put it to his mouth, thus purifying him. Could it be that someone with coal in their mouth needed their words purified A LOT? Unclean lip?

Sus said...

OT Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

The 81 year old jurist said she was at dinner with other justices and couldn't resist, "the very fine California wine Justice Anthony Kennedy brought."

"In the end the dinner was so delicious it needed wine."

"The audience for the most part is awake, because they're bobbing up and down, and we sit there, stone-faced. But we're not, at least I wasnt, 100%sober."

In previous years, she said it helped that former Justice David Souter would keep an eye on her. ".....and he had an acute sense of when I was about to, so he would give me a pinch."

Party on, Ruth!

Sus said...

My final answer. Haha. I think it means "knows how to insult" because I found that "scuttle in the mouth" is shortened from "coal shuttle in the mouth". That means shoveling the insults back in a scuttle. Thus the coal is the original insult. No??? :-)

Kellie said...

Just thinking in terms of what coal is, I would suspect it means a dirty or vulgar mouth.

Kellie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kellie said...

Based on this quote I would have to conclude that "coal" refers to an ember of fire, not tar coal.

"When we receive communion, we kneel before the heavenly worship service going on in the sanctuary, and have the burning coal of Holy Communion placed on our tongue, which purifies not just our lips but our whole being, both soul and body."

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-religion/3092186/posts

GetThem said...

From the bible? Coal is referenced as a means for atonement. Maybe it means "Coal on the tongue" means something to do with lying.

Check Isaiah 6:6-7 -- Isaiah 6:6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal in his hand, which he had taken from the altar with tongs. 7 He touched my mouth with it and said, "Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven."

GetThem said...

I just read comments. I'm with you Sus. I'm thinking a reference originating from the bible.

There are several other bible references to "coal in the mouth" and are regarding speaking the truth through the Lord.

I like KJV and here is one from Job. Job 41:21 says: His breath kindleth coals, and a flame goeth out of his mouth.

GetThem said...

My last guess is from a combination of Hebrew sites mostly from Rabbinic law which I know nothing about, but wish I did. It could be in the talamud which is why it's harder for me to look up. Something about Moses as a toddler touching the crown of the pharaoh who was superstitious and his counselors test young Moses to see if he was after the crown, or reaching for something shiny. Ultimately, Moses reached for coal and burnt his tongue which is said as a possible cause for his speech impediment.

Still, in reading the story in it's entirety, I still see protection from God in one's speech and actions.

Also another reminder of why sometimes bad things happen for a good reason. Some things only God knows...

Anonymous said...

Peter, your dog is much more handsome than you! (coal in the mouth)

elf said...

To lie?

Sus said...

After a bit more googling, I have a new definition. Haha. I agree with previous posters that it originates from the Moses putting coal in his mouth. It caused him to stutter, not speak clearly. It has evolved to mean talk all around a topic. Meaning ....to say one thing, but mean another.

Now, that's my final answer...maybe.

GetThem said...

I am adding the reference in here. I like something to go back to without opening a new window or losing my spot:

When an allegation of sexual harassment or even sexual assault arises, a female victim may feel more comfortable with a female Interviewer. It is life. Whether someone has "coal in the mouth" over such statements matters not to the victim.

GetThem said...

Reference: " Whether someone has "coal in the mouth" over such statements matters not to the victim."

- "Over such statements." The word Over in this sentence signifies authority. So who would have authority "over" sexual assault/harassment statements made by a victim? The LE in charge of the case? And, assuming the LE in charge is a male and not a female. So maybe a male with a background in sexual assault cases.

So maybe, coal in the mouth means someone who speaks with authority. Someone with a lot knowledge on a particular topic or study.

Ughhhhhhh Peter, throw us a bone lolll!!! Hey! There's another expression for the other post: throw us a bone.

Peter Hyatt said...

"Coal in the mouth" or "coal on the tongue" was a reference by German citizens about one whom has spoken against the Nazis.

By making the reference, the person using it is saying that another (the one referred to) is dangerously speaking against the Nazis and could be hung or shot. The one referencing is not sympathetic to the Nazi cause and is not likely to report the person who has "coal on her tongue" or in her mouth.

It is like a "hot" word that should not be used.

Political correctness is similar today in which some words used could result in loss of income, depending upon who the speaker actually is.

We often call these "hot potato" topics.

Peter

Anonymous said...

Thanks for explaining the meaning. I ended up figuring it out (although I wasn't sure if I was correct) when I read the next post, about investigators.

Sus said...

Thanks! I wasn't even close. Am I correct in saying anyone who speaks about Chris Kyle in anyway than the perfect hero has "coal in the mouth"?

Also, would you please go back to the post on Jon Stewart and give us your analysis of the network president's letter? Thanks again.

GetThem said...

Thank you Peter!!!!

So maybe the biblical reference especially translated from Hebrew 80ish years ago combined with everyone's guess regarding Moses was also on the right track in that "speech" is also called "tongues." For example, speaking in tongues. Speaking against Germans was a form of "tongue" in that it was speaking out against the authority of that time. And the hot portion comes in as Peter mentioned in the Hot Potato reference.

Just a guess...

Buckley said...

After translating it into German, I found a quotation from Socrates that says "Who can keep a secret? The person who can keep a live coal on his tongue."

Megan said...

Can you please share the link Buckley? I can't find it in Google. Thank you!!!

Anonymous said...

Peter, your statement about Germans speaking out against Nazis reminded me of a bottleneck snafu that occurred recently.

At the local drug store store picking up toiletries, I made the never before wrong turn in the parking lot. I found myself behind a car waiting for meds in the drive-thru lane and I sat there-though througly disgusted with myself for having been in the lane-reading their three (yes, there were 3!) bumper stickers. The first-from left to right- was about critical thinking. The second, and I can't recall exactly what it was, but it was a slur of some sort, and the third stated something to the effect of: if you can convince enough people of absurdities, you can get them to do anything.

My first thought was their meds were for a mental issue. My second thought was wheeling around backwards and getting the heck out of there before they decided to latch onto me and stay there for some unusual reason unbeknownst to mankind.

It never gets old. Fighting the Nazis that is. Funny how Americans take the pain of others as their own though they embraced many of the Nazi tactics and Nazis themselves.

Buckley said...

Here's an attribution to Socrates:

http://zitatezumnachdenken.com/sokrates/1911

Here's a translation:
https://books.google.com/books?id=1HEBjpsMpL4C&pg=PA191&lpg=PA191&ots=SSlHjpm-i9&focus=viewport&dq=Easier+it+a+live+coal+on+the+tongue+keep+as+a+secret.&output=html_text

Peter Hyatt said...

Sus said...
Thanks! I wasn't even close. Am I correct in saying anyone who speaks about Chris Kyle in anyway than the perfect hero has "coal in the mouth"?

Also, would you please go back to the post on Jon Stewart and give us your analysis of the network president's letter? Thanks again.
February 15, 2015 at 3:43 PM

What do you mean regarding Chris Kyle?

Peter

Peter Hyatt said...

Get Them,

The specific quote I had originally read was explained by the subject.

She was speaking of a neighbor who had spoken out against the Nazis and had frightened all the neighbors that were fearful that the Nazis might take revenge on them all.

They were living in an apartment building that had been bombed and were doubling up in some cases.

This was in a difficult to read book.

Peter

Anonymous said...

Could it be about a snowman? Carrot-nose, stick arms and coal in the mouth?

Buckley said...

Anne Frank? If not, please tell me as I picked it up today to reread.