Rerun of a bad movie; Nail jelly to the wall

LeMay, William Bill.LeMay at MCKESSON.COM
Wed Jan 22 17:00:43 UTC 2003

>From the New Hacker's Dictionary:

like nailing jelly to a tree adj.
Used to describe a task thought to be impossible, esp. one in which the
difficulty arises from poor specification or inherent slipperiness in
the problem domain. "Trying to display the `prettiest' arrangement of
nodes and arcs that diagrams a given graph is like nailing jelly to a
tree, because nobody's sure what `prettiest' means algorithmically."

Hacker use of this term may recall mainstream slang originated early in
the 20th century by President Theodore Roosevelt. There is a legend
that, weary of inconclusive talks with Colombia over the right to dig a
canal through its then-province Panama, he remarked, "Negotiating with
those pirates is like trying to nail currant jelly to the wall."
Roosevelt's government subsequently encouraged the anti-Colombian
insurgency that created the nation of Panama.

-----Original Message-----
From: Bapopik at AOL.COM [ mailto:Bapopik at AOL.COM <mailto:Bapopik at AOL.COM>
Sent: Wednesday, January 22, 2003 10:55 AM
Subject: Rerun of a bad movie; Nail jelly to the wall

   Two presidential phrases.  What does Fred Shapiro have?

RERUN OF A BAD MOVIE--President Bush said this week that Saddam's
actions are like a "rerun of a bad movie."  That's a "nightmare,"
perhaps worse.  Google Groups has this since at least 1996.  It might
have been coined with the movie ENDLESS LOVE, I dunno.

NAIL JELLY TO THE WALL--I was flipping through the tv channels
yesterday, and stopped at the History Channel program on the Panama
Canal.  President Teddy Roosevelt's "nail currant jelly to the wall"
alleged quotation was mentioned.  I've heard "jelly to the wall" again
recently.  Has Fred Shapiro nailed this one down?  Did Teddy coin it?
Do people really try nailing jelly to the wall?  How about Jell-O?

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