nail that Jell-O

victor steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Mon May 23 22:06:13 UTC 2011

Saturday Review (1956) has "cranberry jelly". House Committee on Education
hearings (apparently 1955--unverified) has "custard pie"--a volume of
Illinois Classical Studies once "have been told is an old country
expression, 'trying to *nail a custard pie to a wall*'." Will Edwin Mason in
1963 suggested, "In a world of more or less abstract moneys, the attempt to
distinguish meaningfully between standard and nonstandard money is on all
fours with the effort to *nail a shadow to a wall* of the Treasury

All the aforementioned hits involved nailing to a wall. The "nailing jello
to a tree" line appeared in the New Republic in 1963, likening Goldwater's
platform to it.


On Mon, May 23, 2011 at 1:18 PM, victor steinbok <aardvark66 at>wrote:

> Here's one version that Safire did not mention:
> "they readily admit that trying to define a public figure is like
> attempting to *nail jellyfish to a wall*."
> I also found a "custard" (1960) and "hot butter" (apparently 1980).

The American Dialect Society -

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