Colder than hell? How can that be?

A lot of theories and claims about how the term "cold as hell" came about. Maybe the truth is that no one really knows how the hell it happened.

Winter 2022-23 arrives Wednesday, March 21, 2022. The day after this is being written. This shouldn’t surprise anyone around here, though, because winter temperatures have been around us for a while, starting with colder-than-normal nights in October, November, and December.

It’s colder than hell, which is an oxymoron since hell, by definition, is supposed to be hot as, well, that place run by a horned old bastard with a pitchfork and an evil laugh.

According to some, the term “colder than hell” comes from Norse mythology that refers to “Helheim (Hel), a place after death for all who die in an unworthy way, that is extremely cold and covered in ice.”

Figures. Another old myth is based on misquoting another culture. Another story says the term “colder than hell” is based on the belief that “when hell freezes over” is a time that will never come since hell is a place where sinners burn forever.

And others say the term came from a book about a Marine rifle company that faced Chinese troops at Chosin Reservoir in the Korean conflict. In a review of the book, “Colder Than Hell,” written by 1st Lt. Joseph R. Owen, a member of that unit, Booklist writes:

During the early, uncertain days of the Korean War, World War II veteran and company lieutenant Joe Owen saw firsthand how the hastily assembled mix of some two hundred regulars and raw reservists hardened into a superb Marine rifle company known as Baker-One-Seven.

As comrades fell wounded and dead around them on the frozen slopes above Korea’s infamous Chosin Reservoir, Baker-One-Seven’s Marines triumphed against the relentless human-wave assaults of Chinese regulars and took part in the breakout that destroyed six to eight divisions of Chinese regulars. COLDER THAN HELL paints a vivid, frightening portrait of one of the most horrific infantry battles ever waged.

–Colder Than Hell, by retired 1st Lt. Joseph Owen.

As I write this on a sunny Tuesday afternoon with the temperature sitting in 35 degrees Fahrenheit and where the thermometer should read about 11 degrees colder by 0500 Wednesday, it’s easy to see how frigid weather can feel like a hell, especially for young soldiers fighting for their lives in a faraway land.

The high on Wednesday might hit 40 degrees, the National Weather Service predicts, but we know that they lie like hell when it comes to guessing what Mother Nature might or might not do. Friday is expected to see lows down to six degrees and Christmas Day will dawn with the temperature at an estimated two degrees, the closest to zero seen in many years.

Yeah, Winter 2022 is arriving colder than hell. Maybe that mythical place is actually freezing over.

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© 2021 Blue Ridge Muse