got under my skin

To be intensely annoyed or irritated or obsessed with someone or something.

This phrase could have arisen from the experience of having an insect burrow under the skin. Such insects are usually difficult to remove. Think ‘tick.’

The first use in print appears to be from 1866, in Bayard Taylor John Godfrey’s Fortunes; Related by Himself:

“The idea [of writing a poem] was like a tropical sand-flea. It had got under my skin, and the attempt to dislodge it opened the germs of hundreds of others.”

A different use of ‘under the skin’ focuses on reality. Rudyard Kipling popularized the expression in his late 19th-century poem The Ladies. In it, a philandering speaker draws his own conclusions about women: “For the Colonel’s Lady an’ Judy O’Grady/ Are sisters under their skins!”

The word ‘skin’ itself is borrowed from the Scandinavian languages, like the early Scandinavian ‘skinn.’ Skin originally referred to small animal hides, especially ones dressed and tanned, and was applied to humans by the 14th century. The native term for ‘skin’ in Old English was hyd, which gives us hide, historically used of larger game.

Cole Porter wrote a song, which meant, in essence, “She’s annoying, but I can’t get her out of my mind.” Which may be the first stage on the path to love. 

Or may not!

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