frog in my throat

January 31, 2008



To have a frog in one’s throat is to have a temporary hoarseness caused by phlegm in the back of the throat.

Of all the animal idioms out there, the origin of this one seems pretty obvious. Anyone hoarse with a cold or allergies will typically sound or croak, pretty much like a frog, right? So, duh, that’s a no-brainer. However, with a little digging around I found there is a wee bit more to the story.

According to The Phrase Finder

It used to be thought that if you drank water from a pond that had frogspawn in it, a frog could live and hatch out in your throat, which naturally would block your voice. Quacksalvers (that’s the traditional English equivalent of snake oil merchants) used to have a scam whereby the quack’s stooge used to pretend to be so afflicted; the quack would administer his medicine, lo and behold the stooge would cough up a live frog and “regain his voice”, and all the gullible peasants would buy this wonderful cure. For this reason, an obstruction in the throat is known as a “frog”.

Interesting story, if not exactly full of detailed information, like: What period in time did all this take place?

So with a little more digging I found this:

quack·sal·ver [ kwák sàlvər ] (plural quack·sal·vers) noun
Definition: quack: somebody who falsely claims to have medical or other skills or qualifications ( archaic )

[Late 16th century. < obsolete Dutch, “salve-hawker” < Dutch kwaken “quack, prattle” + zalf “salve”]

So, there you go.

A term likely originated by quacks in an effort to sell snake oil in the late 16th century.

Sound familiar?

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to make myself a nice hot spot o’ tea. I seem to have an amphibian lodged in my esophagus.