Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Episode 85: Death Warmed Over Show Notes

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Bunny Trails

Episode 85: Death Warmed Over

Record Date: July 14, 2020

Air Date: July 15, 2020


Welcome to Bunny Trails, a whimsical adventure of idioms and other turns of phrase. 

I’m Dan Pugh 

And I’m Shauna Harrison

Each week, we take an idiom, or other turn of phrase, and try to tell the story from its entry into the English language, to how it’s used today. 

Every now and then, someone will comment on my appearance. Not my hair, clothes, or whatever, but more about how healthy… or rather, unhealthy, I seem to be. I often think this is some attempt at sympathy or perhaps acknowledgment of how I must be feeling and I try to take it as if the person has supportive intent. One of the phrases is particularly odd to me…

You look like Death Warmed-Over.


From Miriam-Webster dictionary: very tired or sick. 

Some sites say it means you look like you are about to die or as if you’ve already died, but are just still walking around and breathing.

Here are  two definitions from Urban Dictionary: 

  1. the last stages, deterioration of spirit and flesh, of one's lifespan, mental/esterical/physical signs/symptons of dying and/or last stages of development

  2. absolutely horrible, awful, terrible

Let’s get into it! 

From Emilia Pardo Baz├ín’s book, A Wedding Trip, published in 1800, we find this quote: 

They had warmed-over fish, slices of cold ham, thin as wafers, cheese and fruits. 

So, the concept of warmed-over came from warming things over a fire. This was a fairly simple transition. 

Warmed-over expresses not just physical warmth, in the form of heat, but also emotional or metaphoric “warming”. 

Think of the expression that someone has warmed-up to another person or to an idea. We also talk about warming up when we are preparing our muscles for an activity, whether that be our voices for singing or our legs for running.

Warmed-over was used in the 1800s in similar ways. 

The Quaker City: Or, The Monks of Monk-Hall : a Romance of Philadelphia Life, Mystery, and Crime by George Lippard, released in 1847. 

So how does death come into it? 

The first reference I was able to find was a slightly different version, but seems to be the phrase that got us to our current version. 

This comes from The Guardian Angel by Oliver Wendell Holmes, published 1867

This statement was discussing the small things recognized in the face of a young girl from the 5 generations prior to her.

This phrase sort of went viral at this time. There is nothing prior to this little timeframe and then pages of references containing this and similar phrases. 

The XIX Century, Volume 1, published by The XIX Century Company in 1869

Holmes’ work was referenced again in the 1905 January-June collection of articles from The Medical Record: A Weekly Journal of Surgery and Medicine published by the New York William Wood and Company. 

   B. Ruck in Chicago Daily Tribune Mar. 21 1924  

How can any one start feeling intrigued..when they are only that minute over feeling like death warmed up with flu? 

Death Warmed Over by Mary Collins was published as a book in 1947. It had previously been shared in short-story, serial form in The New Yorker.  

LIFE Apr 16, 1945 edition covered stories and troubling results from the war in the article, “The Backwash of Battle”. 

A Quick Thank You

This week’s episode is sponsored by our Patrons, with special thanks to our Logomorphology Interns Pat Rowe and Mary Lopez. Your support makes Bunny Trails happen week after week. 

All of our patrons get access to a monthly bonus episode, as well as behind the scenes chats with Shauna and I. But best of all, our Patrons get to know they are helping provide a safe place for your brain for 30 minutes every week. You can find more at

Pop Culture and Modern Examples

2004 - Death Warmed Over: Funeral Food, Rituals, and Customs from Around the World by Lisa Rogak

You'¬?ll think you'¬?ve died and gone to heaven when you sample the delicious fare laid out in DEATH WARMED OVER, a unique collection of 75 recipes typically served at funeral ceremonies, alongside descriptions of rituals and traditions from cultures around the world. One part sociological study and one part cookbook, DEATH WARMED OVER explains the background and proper timing for such culinary rituals as passing a hen and a loaf of bread over a grave as dirt is shoveled onto the coffin, serving chocolate caskets and skull-shaped cakes at a funeral, and baking up a Funeral Pie to acknowledge the passing of a loved one.

The Thunder Beneath Us by Nicole Blades, published in 2016

2019 Death Warmed Over album, subtitle Best Wishes, Now Drop Dead! by Pain!

The lyrics aren’t available and I wasn’t able to listen to a preview, but the cover art was pretty cool. 

Wrap up...

Don’t say this, it’s mean. 



That’s about all the time we have for today. If you like the show, please leave a review on your podcasting app, or tell your friends about the show on social media. Word of mouth is the best way to build an audience.


Thanks for joining us. We’ll talk to you again next week. And until then remember... 

Words belong to their users.

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