In case any of you are wondering where the phrase originated today . . .
In the course of writing a Visual Thesaurus column on aspects of the word Halloween, I looked into the history of trick or treat. Some of the questions I had about it were:
- When did it become a verb, as in trick-or-treating?
- If its origin is indeed a threat, why is the threat said first and the demand second? That is, why isn’t it Treat or trick, following the same demand-punishment template as Your money or your life or Truth or consequences?
- What’s with the kids in It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown saying “Tricks or treats”? Is that a 1950s/60s thing, or a regional thing?
In the book Death Makes a Holiday: A Cultural History of Halloween, by David J. Skal, I learned that trick-or-treating in the United States began only in the 1920s, or possibly slightly earlier, on a regional basis. Skal…
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