What does it mean to be "born dry?"
July 22, 2010 11:55 AM   Subscribe

Looking for insight into the expressions "born wet" and/or "born dry." I've heard one or both used to mean someone who is sickly, yet I've baffled others by using these expressions.

A few hours of internet searching hasn't produced anything. Possibly I got this from a person who emigrated from Italy and lived in West Virginia, born around 1920. I'm curious if it's just a little quirky thing I latched onto, or if it has or had wider usage.
posted by rainbaby to Writing & Language (8 answers total)
South Carolina resident here, reporting that I've never heard this before and it sounds in no way familiar to me.
posted by Phyltre at 12:03 PM on July 22, 2010

Sure you don't mean "bone dry"? (It doesn't mean sickly, though. It means dry.)
posted by Sys Rq at 12:07 PM on July 22, 2010

I've lived in Massachusetts, Michigan, and New Jersey. I've never heard these expressions.
posted by ellenaim at 12:12 PM on July 22, 2010

I'm sure, Sys Rq. Example: "What's wrong with her?" "Well, she was just born wet/dry." I can justify either in my mind - everyone is born wet, and we all ultimately become frail, or someone born dry would be doomed or unlucky.
posted by rainbaby at 12:20 PM on July 22, 2010

The only thing I can think of is the difference between a "dry birth" and being born with a caul, and can see someone associating current or future health with the conditions present when someone was born.

(In our family, we joke that my husband was the last child born in his family because he was over ten pounds, and born "dry" and breech to his 4'8" eighty pound mother after a VERY long labour, who then called it quits, and no wonder.)

But I've never heard it phrased in exactly those ways.
posted by peagood at 12:23 PM on July 22, 2010

DH Lawrence used the phrase "Behold, he is born wet!"
posted by blue_beetle at 12:33 PM on July 22, 2010

The caul works for me, I hadn't thought of that! It could have been meant to convey otherness rather than illness. Thanks.
posted by rainbaby at 1:00 PM on July 22, 2010

If you did get this from a person emigrated from Italy, it could be an idiomatic expression in Italian translated into English.
posted by Locochona at 6:31 PM on July 22, 2010

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