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Devil and his Dam (The)


Either the Devil and his mother, or the Devil and his wife. Numerous quotations may be adduced in support of either of these interpretations. Shakespeare uses the phrase six times, and in King John (ii. 1) dam evidently means mother; thus Constance says that her son Arthur is as like his father as the Devil is like his dam (mother); and in Titus Andronĭcus Tamora is called the “dam” of a black child. We also read of the Devil’s daughter and the Devil’s son.

In many mythologies the Devil is supposed to be an animal: Thus in Cazotte’s Diable Amoureux he is a camel; the Irish and others call him a black cat; the Jews speak of him as a dragon (which idea is carried out in our George and the Dragon); the Santons of Japan call him a species of fox; others say he is a goat; and Dante associates him with dragons, swine, and dogs. In all which cases dam for mother is not inappropriate.

On the other hand, dam for leman or wife has good support. We are told that Lilith was the wife of Adam, but was such a vixen that Adam could not live with her, and she became the Devil’s dam. We also read that Belphegor “came to earth to seek him out a dam.”

⁂ As women when they go wrong are for the most part worse than the other sex, the phrase at the head of this article means the Devil and something worse.

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Entry taken from Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, edited by the Rev. E. Cobham Brewer, LL.D. and revised in 1895.

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Deuce of Cards (The)
Deva’s Vale
Devil among the Tailors (The)
Devil and Bag oNails (The)
Devil and Dr. Faustus (The)
Devil and his Dam (The)
Devil and the Deep Sea (Between the)
Devil and Tom Walker (The)
Devil catch the Hindmost (The)
Devil in Dublin City (The)
Devil looking Over Lincoln. (The)
Devil loves Holy Water (As the)
Devil-may-care (A)
Devil must be Striking (The) (German)
Devil on the Neck (A)
Devil rides on a Fiddlestick (The)