As I lay sniffling on the couch this weekend and generally feeling sorry for myself, I wondered once again, "Is it feed a cold, starve a fever? Or starve a cold, feed a fever?"
I first encountered this phrase in a Garfield comic, in what must have been the early 1980s. (And I am glad to learn I'm not the only one!
) I don't remember any of the rest of the context, but I'm pretty sure Garfield used it as an excuse to eat more lasagna, that wacky cat.
This time, I decided to look it up online. (What the heck, it's not like there was anything on television.) The original phrase turns out to be something like "feed a cold, starve a fever," and also it is complete bunk.
Surprisingly, this phrase originates in 1574. Which means that by my calculation, people have been wondering which was which for about 437 years. The phrase refers to a common medical belief, which was that bodies worked like literal furnaces - furnaces which burn food instead of wood.