Wednesday, 6 March 2013


As I lead you dear reader, down the leafy avenue in which I am using the trees to represent my various medical conditions I hear you ask 'Why am I reading this drivel?' Yet you clearly are.

We pass the gnarled old oaks signifying those ailments which I have stoicly borne for a good many years, such as my reflux problem. Then those younger trees which stand for more recent issues such as my hurty knee or elbow. Finally, the young sprig which newly sprouts to show my newest problem. My cold hands. Usually toasty and warm, my hands have been like blocks of ice and I don't like this new experience.

When I trawl round my friends and family to find people who I haven't yet described my condition to, I find that the moment I say 'cold hands' they invariably break in with 'Cold hands, warm heart'. This poorly disguised attempt to bring my medical  dialogue to a halt or at least to change the subject rarely works but does get me wondering where the phrase comes from.

It is a proverb which means that a reserved exterior may disguise a kind hearted person or that people whose hands are usually cold have kind and loving personalities. 

The earliest known use of this proverb was in Collectanea edited by V.S. Lean - a collection of English and foreign proverbs published in Bristol, England in 1903. I might have known it started in my favourite city.

Scientists are as usual divided on the matter. They point out that in cold weather, blood goes away from the hands and feet to protect the brain and main part of the body so that your hands will be cold but your heart will be warm.

Yet in 2008, the Telegraph reported that 'The old adage that cold hands often conceal a warm heart has been dispelled by scientists, after they found how physically warm you are has a direct correlation to how nice you are to people.'

Guess which one I believe?


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