- The common remark to people who complain of having a pimple or spot on their tongue, that they have been lying, is old indeed. In England it goes back at least to the 17th century - Shakespeare alludes to it (Winter's Tale (1611), ii. ii): 'If I prove honeymouthed, let my tongue blister', as do John Aubrey (1686/1880: 28) and several other 17th-century writers. But this is nothing compared to Theocritus (Idylls (c.275 bc), xii) 'Nor midst my song shall tell-tale blisters rise, and gall my tongue'. The same thing about falsehood is said of people who accidentally bite their tongue when eating. The tip of a calf's tongue is regularly reported as a lucky charm, carried in the pocket and called the 'lucky bit', this was first mentioned in Northamptonshire in its mid-19th century (Sternberg, 1851: 172-3). Igglesden (c.1932: 127, 146) reports a surgeon who carried a tip of a human tongue, and a Thames bargee who believed in the luck of a cat's tongue.■ Opie and Tatem, 1989: 146; Igglesden, c.1932: 127, 146; Lean, 1903: ii. 296.
A Dictionary of English folklore. Jacqueline Simpson & Steve Roud. 2014.
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