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Where does the phrase "hate your guts" (for example "I hate your guts") come from?

I've heard the phrase used as a way to convey extreme and deep dislike of another individual. However, it seems strange to have just been born arbitrarily and I suspect there is a source.

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4 Answers 4

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Dictionaries

The Shorter Slang Dictionary (1994) says:

hate (sb's) guts to dislike (sb) intensely. Adopted from the USA around 1937.

The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English (2008) says:

guts noun 1 the stomach; the general area of the stomach and intestines. Standard English from late C14; slipped into unconventional usage early in C19 UK, 1393. 2 the essentials, the important part, the inner and real meaning UK, 1663.

And:

hate someone's guts to hate someone intensely UK, 1918

The Historical Dictionary of American Slang has a similar "I hate his intestines" from 1901, and according to chief editor Jonathan Lighter: "Guts being regarded in that far-off age as rather vulgar."

Antedating

I found a 1913 (and possibly 1912) antedating. Within The Law was a Broadway production in 1912, written by Bayard Veiller. Here's an extract from the 1913 book based on the play (plain text / full view) "by Marvin Dana from the play of Bayard Veiller":

"Was there any bad feeling between you and Eddie Griggs?"

Garson's reply was explicit.

"Never till that very minute. Then, I learned the truth about what he'd framed up with you." The speaker's voice reverted to its former fierceness in recollection, of the treachery of one whom he had trusted.

"He was a stool-pigeon, and I hated his guts! That's all," he concluded, with brutal candor.

The same line appears in 1917 books of the script, and I expect it was also in the original production which was first performed at Eltinge Theatre, New York, September 11th 1912.

Via ADS-L is a 1911 found by Garson O'Toole:

[ref] 1911 June 3, Seattle Daily Times, Stenographic Report of Today's Testimony, Quote Page 8, Column 6, Seattle, Washington.(GenealogyBank)[/ref]

[Begin excerpt] You further said: "I hope I may never see my mother alive if I ever gave the ---- a cent. I never had use for him, and I hate his guts." [End excerpt]

(The dashes above represent a single long dash.)

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I have a theory that the phrase comes from one of the two characteristics of Kosher animals which requires an animal to have more than one stomach. If an animal has non-Kosher-style stomachs (i.e. like a pig) it is not-Kosher (and sometimes seen as not pure).

Perhaps insulting someone's guts was a way of saying they are like a pig, or other impure animal.

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@Downvoters Come on, it's not a bad theory –  Imray Apr 5 '13 at 15:33

Although I don't have any good evidence to back it up, I've heard it argued that the term came from archaeologists in Egypt finding heiroglyphs depicting old scores being settled by destroying the preserved organs of the person to be disgraced - leading to the term "hate your guts".

Whatever the answer, this NGram appears to show that the term is reasonably new, and entered the lexicon in the late 1920s:

enter image description here

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Smells like something that would have first shown up like I hate your guts, you dirty rat! in some old James Cagney movie about gangsters. –  tchrist Apr 5 '13 at 0:37
    
It just sounds implausible that so visceral (in very sense) an expression would reach low-class slang from the musty realm of Egyptian archeology. –  gmcgath Apr 5 '13 at 11:33
    
@gmcgath: since when has common sense had anything to do with etymology? Also, we've already got lots of ancient Egyptian words in common use: Pyramid, Obelisk, Gypsy, Gum, Ebony, Oasis, Ivory, Ammonia, Barge, Embark, as well as probably Paper, Alchemy, Chemistry, Basalt, Myth, Pitcher, the list goes on. –  Matt Apr 5 '13 at 12:29
    
@Matt; claiming the word gypsy is ancient Egyptian weakens your (somewhat tenuous) thesis to breaking point. Is Frenchman from Old French? –  TimLymington May 23 '13 at 12:36
    
@TimLymington: Are you serious? "gypsy" derives from the Greek word for Egyptian ("Aigyptos") meaning the River Nile, which is itself ultimately derived from the Egyptian word "Hakaptah" meaning "temple of the soul of Ptah" (which is Memphis in Egypt). –  Matt May 23 '13 at 17:18

Guts is used in many expressions and always refers to something fundamental about a person. These are just a few, there are many others:

a gut feeling: a feeling that you are certain is right, even if you cannot explain why. "My gut feeling was that she was lying."

a gut reaction: a reaction that is based on your immediate feelings about someone or something "When a tragedy like this happens, I think people's gut reaction is anger and a desire to find someone to blame."

have your guts for garters (British informal): if you say that you will have someone's guts for garters, you mean that you intend to punish them very severely. "If I catch you smoking again I'll have your guts for garters."

It's similar to expressions using stomach relating to physical ability or courage:

I didn't have the stomach to see him, knowing what he'd done.

Compare:

“He which hath no stomach to this fight, Let him depart;" [Shakespeare Henry V]

and

He had the guts to stand up and say what he thought.

Just as the heart is the metaphorical seat of emotions, so guts are linked to deep, instinctive feelings and reactions. So to say you hate someone's guts is to say you hate them to the very core.

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+1 This is a solid answer. –  Imray Apr 5 '13 at 0:44
1  
And don't forget bowels, as in bowels of mercy, bowels of compassion, and, perhaps best known, the Apostle's phrase “in the bowels of Jesus Christ" in his epistle to the Philippians, most famously borrowed by Oliver Cromwell for use in his letter to the Synod of the Church of Scotland, “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken." –  Animadversor Apr 5 '13 at 4:50

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