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"In the heat of the night" doesn't simply mean hot weather at night, does it?

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

Yes it does.

It is the title of a famous film based on a novel published in 1965. I am not aware of any prior or more general usage of the phrase.

From this it also suggests alterations in human behaviour when subjected to long periods of unaccustomed heat; shortness of temper, heightened emotions.

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Yes, it comes from the novel, but I believe the author meant for the title to be a play on words with respect to the phrase "in the heat of the moment." – Old Pro Apr 26 '12 at 6:15
In other words, it combines the figurative or metaphorical sense of "in the heat of the moment" with the literal meaning of "in the heat of the night." – Old Pro Apr 26 '12 at 6:21
I don't think it is a play on "heat of the moment" (nothing in the story is done particularly impulsively), but on "the heat of the day", a common phrase meaning the hottest part of the day. The book and the movie share the snarkiest exchange ever. Police Chief: "Virgil is a pretty fancy name for a black boy like you. What do they call you at home?" Tibbs: "They call me Mr. Tibbs." – Malvolio Nov 4 '14 at 10:33

In Dutch, you have 'in de HOLST' of the night, meaning the time between about 1.30 and 3.30. Might there be some etymological connection between this 'holst' and 'heat', possibly via descendants of Dutch immigrants into the USA?

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