If give the cold shoulder has ever been discussed on this board, I haven’t been able to find it: nor is it in the Big List. Perhaps it should be, given that there is a widespread folk etymology for it, plus - I only now learn - a slightly dubious Biblical one.
I was whinging to a friend about the number of people and websites that trot out the story about giving unwanted guests cold shoulder of mutton at dinner to give them a hint that they weren’t wanted (not merely is there no evidence that anyone ever did this, but it runs utterly contrary to the reality of 18th- and 19th-century social dining) and she alerted me that the Wikipedia entry for the phrase claims that it is “in fact a mistranslation of an expression from the Vulgate Bible” - viz. Nehemiah 9.29.
I’m not too convinced by that one either, to be honest. The KJV translation of that verse is:
And testifiedst against them, that thou mightest bring them again unto thy law: yet they dealt proudly, and hearkened not unto thy commandments, but sinned against thy judgments, (which if a man do, he shall live in them;) and withdrew the shoulder, and hardened their neck, and would not hear.
And the Geneva Bible, which had a longer currency in Scotland than in England and which might be expected to affect Scottish turns of phrase, isn’t much different:
And protestedst among them, that thou mightest bring them again unto thy Law: but they behaved themselves proudly, and hearkened not unto thy commandments, but sinned against thy judgments (which a man should do and live in them) and pulled away the shoulder, and were stiff-necked, and would not hear.
OK, both of them do describe people manifesting rejection by pulling their shoulders away: but I feel that without any actual supporting evidence it’s a bit of a jump to claim this as the “origin” of give the cold shoulder, given the absence of the adjective and the universality of the action of snubbing someone by turning one’s shoulder to them. In fact, when I was about 7 I read an introduction to ballet that explained the term épaulement (a shoulder movement performed by turning the body from the waist upward and bringing one shoulder forward and the other back) by saying “Think of giving the cold shoulder to someone - that’s how it looks”, which conveyed the meaning perfectly.