green behind the ears (UNCLASSIFIED)

Thu Oct 16 18:52:07 UTC 2008

        The implication is that the subject has washed his face, but has
not done so thoroughly.  Mark Twain had a fuller description of this
(without, however, referring specifically to the ears) in Tom Sawyer:

The basin was refilled, and this time he [Tom Sawyer]
stood over it a little while, gathering resolution; took in a big
breath and began. When he entered the kitchen presently, with both eyes
shut and groping for the towel with his hands, an honorable testimony
of suds and water was dripping from his face. But when he emerged from
the towel, he was not yet satisfactory, for the clean territory stopped
short at his chin and his jaws, like a mask; below and beyond this line
there was a dark expanse of unirrigated soil that spread downward in
front and backward around his neck.

John Baker

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf
Of Wilson Gray
Sent: Thursday, October 16, 2008 1:47 PM
Subject: Re: green behind the ears (UNCLASSIFIED)

Okay. Problem solved. Now, how about the
whatever-one-may-wish-to-call-it, "wash behind one's ears"? I've read
variations of this turn of phrase any number of times and may even have
heard it in a movie or two and it's never made any sense to me.


The American Dialect Society -

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