He came in, big and smiling, with his right eye completely close.

“Your mother put a silver knife smeared with butter on it last night. Quite a person, Mother.”

(He had a black eye, after struggling with a murderer.)

Is it a sort of folk remedy in America? Or is there another meaning to its expression?

(It's from 'Lipstick' by Mary Roberts Rinehart.)

closed as off-topic by tchrist, Mari-Lou A, Erik Kowal, Rory Alsop, aedia λ Jun 25 '14 at 14:59

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "Questions that can be answered using commonly-available references are off-topic. A list of these references can be found here: List of general references" – tchrist, aedia λ
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 3
    Putting butter on a bruise or black eye seems to be a common folk remedy: google.com/search?q=butter+bruising – Neil W Jun 25 '14 at 1:16
  • I searched "butter black eye" in google and got the answer to this question immediately. – Dave Magner Jun 25 '14 at 1:26
  • 1
    The meaning seems pretty literal. NARQ? – Kris Jun 25 '14 at 4:59
  • 2
    This question appears to be off-topic because it is not about the meaning, which is clear, but it is about an old wives' remedy. – Mari-Lou A Jun 25 '14 at 7:51

Applying butter and cold metal to treat a bruised eye are common folk remedies.

For example, one of the "20 Frugal Ways to Use Butter," as suggested on Premeditated Leftovers, reads:

Prevent a black eye. The phosphates in butter can actually prevent bruising. Apply some when you bang an eye, arm, or leg and want to prevent bruising.The phosphates in butter can actually prevent bruising. Apply some when you bang an eye, arm, or leg and want to prevent bruising.1

Someone else, on a blog dedicated to parenting, writes:

I will offer you this piece of advice as it was offered to me by my mother in law and tell you that it works: Keep a stainless steel butter knife in your freezer. Yea...in the freezer...at the time of the incident, place the butter knife over the affected areas and rub it gently over the skin. Something about the cold stainless prevents swelling. Lil bit has had many a face bruise over the last week...(she keeps falling in the same damn place on the coffee table!) but managed to not develop a swollen face because of the butter knife. It won't prevent BRUISING, but it completely prevents swelling.2

Using both together might be the author's invention.

  1. http://web.archive.org/web/20140625012445/http://premeditatedleftovers.com/naturally-frugal-living/20-frugal-ways-use-butter/

  2. http://web.archive.org/web/20140625013213/http://bestparentever.com/discuss/index.php?topic=5310.0;wap2

  • 2
    Disclaimer!: Don't put butter near your eye. It may cause complications. There is no scientific evidence to suggest that "The phosphates in butter can actually prevent bruising". – Dave Magner Jun 25 '14 at 1:39
  • 1
    I second the advice by @DaveMagner. My comments speak only to the semantics (and not to any supposed health benefits of butter, knives, or black eyes). – denten Jun 25 '14 at 2:01
  • @DaveMagner I commonly used this folklore remedy by rinsing out a chlorine irritated eye with milk; IIRC, all the CC kids did the same, and I can't recall any physician parent warning otherwise -not intended as medical advice – Third News Jun 25 '14 at 9:50

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.