How the Phrase ‘Egg on Your Face’ Arrived to Convey Embarrassment

A middle-schooler who unintentionally named their instructor “Mom” could be described as owning “egg on their deal with.” In other words, they just manufactured a fool of on their own and now they’re on the lookout duly ashamed. It’s not apparent exactly why the phrase egg on your experience came to necessarily mean humiliated. But it most likely has to do with the idea that any predicament in which a single finishes up with an eggy confront is very humiliating.

Chucking eggs—especially rotten ones—at someone you don’t like is a time-honored custom that dates at least as considerably again as the Center Ages. Prisoners in city squares, talentless performers, persecuted spiritual folk all have something in frequent: They’ve all been subjected to egg-relevant abuse more than the centuries. 

Females have even applied the tactic to beat harassment. In 1877, just after a guy “circulated unattractive stories” about a Pass up Hadlock of Vermont, she tossed pepper in his eyes, beat him with a raw-disguise, and “wound up the concert by smashing rotten egg in his experience,” according to Kentucky’s The Hickman Courier. When a “traveling man” would not halt stalking a couple younger women in Connecticut in 1901, “they armed by themselves with fresh eggs” which they “hurled … into his face.” As North Dakota’s Courier Democrat recounted the incident, “A crowd gathered to chortle at his discomfeiture and the masher fled, leaving his hat driving him.”

Chefs preparing ham and eggs for breakfast circa 1930

Chefs making ready ham and eggs for breakfast circa 1930. / E. F. Corcoran/Topical Press Company/Getty Photos

Sporting a little bit of egg left above from breakfast is also blush-inducing—and in the early 20th century, it might’ve even earned you a shoutout in the regional paper. 

“A very well-known qualified gentleman of Emporia often has some dried egg on his encounter. He evidently eats eggs for breakfast just about every early morning, and there are men and women who consider that he must consume them out of a trough,” The Kansas Metropolis Star reported in 1909.

In the course of that era, when “cold storage” was continue to comparatively new and eggs weren’t constantly low cost or simple to occur by—particularly in the winter—a little egg residue close to your mouth could be a indication that you were dwelling huge, and perhaps unwisely so. 

“An Atchison younger male, who life down city, was upbraided this early morning for staying extravagant,” Kansas’s Atchison Weekly Globe reported in 1911. “‘Why, you experienced egg on your confront this early morning when you came to operate,’ he was explained to. The younger person defined it was mustard from a 5-cent ham sandwich.”

A Wisconsin information tale from 1908 pointed out a person who was found with egg on his facial area, prompting someone to exclaim that he “must be a millionaire.” When the person overheard the remark and went to wipe the smudge absent, another onlooker claimed, “Don’t do that, give it to me.”

Although the novelty of having eggs pale around the next couple a long time, the novelty of teasing an individual for accidentally leaving a minimal on their facial area did not. It produced for a fantastic April Fools’ joke, way too. “Someone will doubtless notify you there’s egg on your encounter, a gap in the seat of your trousers, and dirt on the back of your neck,” a California newspaper report claimed forward of the holiday in 1937.

Alfred Hitchcock in 1955

Alfred Hitchcock filming ‘The Gentleman Who Knew Too Much’ in 1955. / Baron/GettyImages

In short, having caught with egg on your facial area seems to have been a popular adequate source of mortification among early 20th-century People in america that it turned an idiom. This transition from literal to figurative may well have been kickstarted by 1940s youths, as evidenced by a 1941 report in which teenage actress Jane Withers reviewed a screenplay she co-wrote. 

“A peek at the script turned up these gems, which Jane claims are in the vocabulary of most any 15-calendar year-aged these times,” the story explained, citing “with egg on my face” as just one expression “describing humiliation.”

It also appears probable that Withers picked up that individual phrase on established, the place individuals made use of it to describe an actor’s “vaguely humiliated expression prompted by as well prolonged a time period without the need of traces or a lag in motion,” per a 1946 Boston Globe report. Though that piece implied that Alfred Hitchcock coined egg on your facial area (at minimum in its filmmaking context), it is also been attributed to CBS government Byron Paul.

All that claimed, a competing concept implies that puppies basically served originate the expression. As Michael Quinion stated on his Entire world Extensive Phrases blog, pet dogs have been recognised to steal eggs from farms, and if any of these so-termed “egg-sucking” mutts had been caught with a wet, yolk-soaked muzzle, they might’ve in fact looked abashed. But thinking of the wealth of references to egg on human faces, it’s almost certainly far more possible that the phrase came from human faux pas—not all those committed by canines.

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