Confused Expressions #1: Like Hell Warmed Over

As a writer, I’m interested in the ways language is used (and abused), and especially with expressions that make no sense. From time to time on this blog, I’ll post my thoughts on these phrases, tagging them under “Confused Expressions.” The first has been on my mind since I’ve been feeling under the weather lately, and it’s an expression people often use when they’re sick: “I feel like hell warmed over.” Of course that makes no sense: hell is pretty warm already and a little more warmth probably wouldn’t make a difference. I believe the expression is a conflation of two others: “I feel like hell” and “I feel like death warmed over.” Of course I’m not so annoying that I’ll start deconstructing the expression if someone tells me they feel like hell warmed over; sickness is a time for giving lots of care and sympathy and little else.

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Karl El-Koura was born in Dubai, United Arab Emirates and currently lives with his beautiful editor-wife in Canada’s capital city. More than sixty of his short stories and articles have been published in magazines since 1998, and in 2012 he independently published his debut novel Father John VS the Zombies.

4 comments on “Confused Expressions #1: Like Hell Warmed Over
  1. Mr F says:

    So true. People say the darndest things when they’re doped up on NeoCitran.

  2. James Baird says:

    The way I interpret the expression is in a sort of metaphoric analogy to food. Leftover food is never very good reheated. So I look at the expression in a way where if hell we’re reheated it would totally suck worse than it already does. Then it is used to compare the look or feeling of a person. For instance (and this is a true story) today I’m coming down with a cold and I feel like hell warned over.

    • That’s an interesting take on the expression, James, but I think it still sounds confused. Leftover food needs to be reheated because it’s gone cold; but in the common conception of hell, temperatures are already uncomfortably hot and no reheating would be required.

      As an aside, I’ve found that some food is actually better after reheating!

      Hope you’re feeling better!

  3. It’s a common misconception that hell is hot. Indeed, Lucifer prefers the cold and hell is actually freezing.

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