Queries About Colorful Expressions

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Sun Nov 17 19:02:02 UTC 2013

Don't get me started.

Happy as a pig in shit.

Busy as a one-armed paperhanger.

Busy as a one-legged man at an ass-kicking.

Does a hobby horse have a wooden dick?

Does a chicken have lips?

Hotter than a two-dollar pistol.

Hotter than firecracker.

Dumb as a box of rocks.

Dumb as hammer.

Deaf as a post.

Not the sharpest knife in the drawer.

Only fifty cards in his deck.

Lights on, nobody home.

Lying like a rug.

Crooked as a dog's hind leg.

You don't take a knife to a gunfight.

Like white on rice.

Like ugly on an ape.

Like a duck on a junebug.

Cut you every way but loose.

Ugly enough to make a freight train take a dirt road.

Just off the top of my head.  Need I go on?


On Sun, Nov 17, 2013 at 1:37 PM, David A. Daniel <dad at pokerwiz.com> wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       "David A. Daniel" <dad at POKERWIZ.COM>
> Subject:      Re: Queries About Colorful Expressions
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> How about: "I'm as busy as a one-legged man in a butt-kicking contest." Or,
> if colorful expressions include stock replies to questions with obvious
> answers, along the lines of "Is the Pope Catholic?" we have: Does Superman
> wear blue pajamas? Does a bear shit in the woods? Is a pig's ass pork? Does
> Pinocchio have a wooden dick? Does a one-legged duck swim in a circle? etc.
> Sent: Sunday, November 17, 2013 2:22 PM
> Subject: Re: Queries About Colorful Expressions
> Poster:       ADSGarson O'Toole <adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Re: Queries About Colorful Expressions
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
> ---
> Two colorful expressions I saw recently were both similes: "Busier
> than a mosquito in a nudist colony" and the cliché "As happy as a pig
> in the muck". These are elaborate ways to say "very busy" and "very
> happy".
> Here some more examples expressing happiness that have become clichés:
> http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20100828001945AAsOrIs
> [Begin selected excerpt]
> I'm as happy as:
> a kid in a candy store.
> a tornado in a trailer park.
> a clam at high tide.
> a pig in a peach orchard.
> a kid on Christmas.
> a pup with two tails.
> [End excerpt]
> Some prominent writers described a state of happiness with a simile.
> Here are some examples from a 1916 book of similes
> Frank J. Wilstach, comp.  A Dictionary of Similes.  1916.
> http://www.bartleby.com/161/1160.html
> [Begin selected excerpt]
> Happy as a miner when he has discovered a vein of precious metal.
>            —Guy de Maupassant
> Happy as a rose-tree in sunshine.
>             —William Makepeace Thackeray
> As happy as birds in their bowers.
>             —William Wordsworth
> Happy as a Sunday in Paris, full of song, and dance, and laughter.
>             —Fitz-Greene Halleck
> [End excerpt]
> Ornate constructions proliferate in the domain of similes. The 1917
> book "The Fifteen Thousand Useful Phrases" has a section called
> "Striking Similes" that is filled with phrases written by authors who
> were attempting to be colorful. Some of the similes listed in 1917
> have become clichés (or were already clichés), e.g., "As busy as a
> bee", "As extinct as the dodo", "As pale as any ghost", "Spread like
> wildfire".
> http://www.ansible.co.uk/misc/striking.html
> The Fifteen Thousand Useful Phrases: A Practical Handbook of Pertinent
> Expressions, Striking Similes, Literary, Commercial, Conversational,
> and Oratorical Terms, for the Embellishment of Speech and Literature,
> and the Improvement of the Vocabulary of Those Persons who Read,
> Write, and Speak English (1917)
> http://books.google.com/books?id=3sgNAAAAYAAJ&q=%22book+that%22#v=snippet&
> Garson
> > Poster:       "Shapiro, Fred" <fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU>
> > Subject:      Queries About Colorful Expressions
> >
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
> ---
> >
> > For my column in the Yale Alumni Magazine, I am writing about "the opera
> ai=
> > n't over till the fat lady sings" and related sayings, and also about
> Bonni=
> > e Taylor-Blake's recent discoveries about "the whole nine yards."  It
> occur=
> > s to me that these are both examples of a simple and obvious idea ("it's
> no=
> > t over until it's definitively finished" or "the full extent of
> something")=
> >  that becomes much more memorable by being rephrased in colorful
> language.
> >
> > Can anyone suggest a name for this colorful rephrasing phenomenon?  Is it
> p=
> > articularly characteristic of the Southern United States?  Can anyone
> sugge=
> > st other examples besides "fat lady sings" and "whole nine yards"?
> > I hope to write the column in the next few days, so quick responses would
> b=
> > e most welcome.
> >
> > Fred Shapiro
> >
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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