Historically Speaking

Making sense of it all!

A Cold Day In Hell

Posted by Elyse Bruce on January 10, 2011

When you hear someone say it will be a cold day in Hell before something happens, it means it will either never happen or it’s highly unlikely to happen.  The phrase hasn’t lost much of its punch over the years and has the same bite it seems to have always had.

On July 20, 1990, the Los Angeles Times reported on the Republicans block of the Democrats’ $55.4 billion spending proposal.  In fact, it was reported that Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, the representative for San Francisco said:

I know you (Republicans) hate people on welfare. Well, I was one of those poor children on welfare. I was raised on welfare. There are a lot of poor children out there who deserve our support, who deserve to be able to eat, who deserve to be able to sleep. I’m going to fight for those children. It will be a cold day in Hell before I participate in a society giving up on its children.

Back in 1944, after Ernest Graham lost his bid for governor for the state of Florida, the Miami Herald wrote:

It will be a cold day in Hell when anybody from Miami will be elected governor.

Going all the way back to July 7, 1886, the Atlanta Constitution newspaper published an article written by F.B. Doyle with a headline that read:

It Will Be A Cold Day In July And Mighty Late In The Evening When The People Desert General Gordon

Considering that the article was only 183 words long, the 20-word headline summed up the article quite nicely.  At the time, General Gordon secured the necessary majority of the delegates-elect to the Democratic state convention.

It was widely believed that his nomination — and having two-thirds of the delegates behind him — and election to the governorship would follow as a matter of course.  It was widely reported in the newspapers of the day that Gordon’s campaign — in its inception, progress and results — was without precedent or parallel in the history of Georgia.

And while the phrase a cold day in Hell or a cold day in July seems to be commonplace in the late 1800s, Idiomation was unable to find a published reference to the phrase prior to 1886.

As a side note, it’s a fact that Hell — which is between Flint and Ann Arbor in Michigan — froze over in 2004.

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