Monday, May 14, 2012

Like a Bat Out of Hell

No, I am not a Meat Loaf fan. To tell the truth (shhh...don't tell anyone)...I don't think I've ever heard anything by Meat Loaf. Well, I take it back...I did watch Rocky Horror Picture Show...once...many years ago...many, many years ago. Maybe I would be a Meat Loaf fan if I tried.

But I digress.

I had always assumed that the expression " bat out of hell" originated with Meat Loaf's song of the same name. I was, therefore, surprised to run across it in one of Dorothy Parker's short stories from a 1932 edition of Harper's Bazaar, "Dusk Before Fireworks". In it, a young woman, jealous of another woman, says to her putative boyfriend, "She'll shoot out of Greenwich like a bat out of hell, if she thinks there's a chance of seeing you."

The Word Detective tells us that this expression first appeared in print in 1921, but does not provide a source.  Wordwizard says it was used in the novel The Three Soldiers by John Dos Passos, and supposedly it started up in WW I.  The Wiki page on Meat Loaf's song mentions a reference to a bat coming out of hell in Aristophanes' The Birds, so that takes it back a little further.  Kind of like that Homer reference to biting dust.

Just thought you ought to know.