Idiom: Give someone the cold shoulderOED definition: A show of intentional unfriendliness; rejectionExample: After their argument, she gave him the cold shoulder
Blog in English Method To My Madness
On the surface, this idiom sees to relate to the idea that if you dislike someone, you might look coldly over your shoulder at them. Similarly, if you keep a shoulder between you and the person you don’t like, you are creating distance and stopping them from getting too close. This theory as to the origin of this idiom is logical and seems to make sense. In fact, even Charles Darwin in his work ‘The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals’ described his observation of a child ‘showing a cold shoulder’ to its parent in order to avoid physical affection from said parent.
However, many argue that this expression refers to physical coldness, not figurative, and dates back to mediaeval times. During this period, a welcome guest would be offered a place to stay and a lavish meal. However, if a guest began to outstay their welcome, they would be offered a cold shoulder of mutton (a cheap cut of meat, which was usually only eaten by the household staff). This offering of cold meat was therefore, an indirect way of telling your house-guest it was time to leave.
Unfortunately, there is very little written evidence that can prove where this idiom came from. The only thing we have is well-reasoned theories.