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Cheesy
Posted: 07 July 2011 11:23 AM   [ Ignore ]
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AHD says “...Of poor quality; shoddy.”

MW says “shabby cheap “

Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary “clearly of cheap quality or in bad style”

But none, insofar as I can tell, explain how we get from the dairy product, which many perceive as a finer food product to shoddy, cheap, bad style.

Comments?

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Posted: 07 July 2011 11:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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HDAS antedates it to the 1860s, but doesn’t help with the metaphor underlying it. It may have originally referred to the pungent smell of cheese, but that’s just a guess on my part.

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Posted: 07 July 2011 02:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Etymonline suggests that there is no relation to the milk derivative:

..."cheap, inferior,” 1896, from Urdu chiz “a thing,” from Persian chiz, from O.Pers. *ciš-ciy “something,” from PIE pronomial stem *kwo- (see who). Picked up by British in India by 1818 and used in the sense of “a big thing” (especially in the phrase the real chiz)....

I have some doubts.  I suspect that “cheesy” is actually etymologically related to the milky stuff…

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Posted: 07 July 2011 05:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Is it more American or British?

Americans have long been suspicious of cheese as a foodstuff, IMO. Smell is important. “Who cut the cheese?” Cheese is a good analogy for soft and insubstantial things. Not unlike that great expression, “You’re soft as shit,” one can imagine people saying, “That wheel bearing is soft as cheese!” Cheese is also offered as a substitute in meals for good old meat. When you want a steak, Welsh Rarebit just won’t do. 

I don’t think 19th century west-of-the-Catskills farmers put much effort into making cheese, but I could be wrong. Was it prevalent on the frontier? Did cowboys buy it at the general store? Did dairy farmers preserve milk? Where I live, the dairy farms go back to the 1850s, but they had ready access to San Francisco by boat, train, or wagon back then.

Just some suggestions.

[ Edited: 07 July 2011 05:42 PM by Iron Pyrite ]
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Posted: 07 July 2011 07:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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The term is most definitely American in origin, so I don’t think the Urdu origin holds water. Not only does HDAS put it in the 1860s, but the 1896 citation from the OED that Etymonline cites is from a book of University of Michigan student slang.

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Posted: 07 July 2011 08:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I can’t help but think that the following offers clue:

“...What makes milk at first so disagreeable, painful, and oppressive, is the inflammatory, bilious, and acrimonious state of the stomach and bowels, which presently turns the milk into a hard cheesy curd, and sends off the whey into the lacteals too thin and too fast....”

-- The medical museum or Select cases, experiments, researches and discoveries in medicine, pharmacy, anatomy, botany, chemistry, surgery, physiology, &c, ed. II, page 369, 1781

disagreeable
painful
oppressive
inflammatory
bilious
acrimonious
hard
...cheesey?

WAG

[ Edited: 07 July 2011 08:32 PM by sobiest ]
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Posted: 08 July 2011 03:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Back to the OP:  “Of poor quality, shoddy” .... “of cheap quality, in bad style”.

Those phrases express the sense of “cheesy”, in all cases where I’ve ever seen it used --- I’ve never come across it in such senses as “a big thing”, “soft, insubstantial”, “painful, inflammatory, bilious”, etc. The medical text quoted by sobiest uses “cheesy” in a strictly literal, technical sense, not metaphorical at all.

“Big cheese”, on the other hand, is a delightfully satirical term, used to refer to a leader, or boss - especially one surrounded by absurd pomposity.  I wish it were used more often; it certainly deserves to be. The phrase always makes me think of those witty Italians, who referred to Mussolini with devastating irony as “Il Provolone”.

http://www.eleaml.org/sud/sg/una_storia.html (don’t waste time with this if you don’t read Italian)

WWW offers a generous portion of cheese:

http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-big1.htm

---- and I think we discussed it a few years ago.

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Posted: 09 July 2011 08:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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lionello - 08 July 2011 03:33 AM

---- and I think we discussed it a few years ago.

It was in this old thread but I didn’t see a firm resolution…

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Posted: 10 July 2011 09:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Very American along with calling a movie a turkey. However, I remember the British satirical puppet show Spitting Image having a sketch of Paul McCartney in a restaurant being served canisters of his movie Give My Regards to Broadstreet with the words ‘Here’s your turkey, sir’ so it was widely known in the UK then.

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Posted: 10 July 2011 06:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Certainly it is; Kraft advertises (or used to advertise) itself as “the cheesiest”.

However, your comment might be construed as uncomplimentary, depending on your tone of voice or facial expression.

EDIT: This posting was in answer to a post that now appears to have been deleted.

[ Edited: 11 July 2011 11:36 AM by Dr. Techie ]
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Posted: 11 July 2011 08:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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I meant my perception of the word’s origin. It ‘s a useful word.

‘I’ve got to be groovy for the movie
I commit the mortal sin
I’ll do it with a cheesy grin
I’m taking it on the chin’

Black Grape (British rock group also happy with American idioms)

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Posted: 31 October 2018 01:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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‘I’ve got to be groovy for the movie
I commit the mortal sin
I’ll do it with a cheesy grin
I’m taking it on the chin’

Black Grape (British rock group also happy with American idioms)

I bumped into this old thread when searching to see if we had ever discussed Welsh rabbit/rarebit (apparently not, which surprises me).

Just to say that cheesy in ‘a cheesy grin’ is unrelated to the American sense ‘cheap, low-quality’; it means an artificial smile like the one you adopt when asked to ‘Say cheese!’ by the photographer.

Incidentally, here in the UK people’s feet or dirty socks can be cheesy, an obvious aromatic simile, also unrelated.

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Posted: 31 October 2018 06:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Just to say that cheesy in ‘a cheesy grin’ is unrelated to the American sense ‘cheap, low-quality’; it means an artificial smile like the one you adopt when asked to ‘Say cheese!’ by the photographer.

That sounds like folk etymology to me; I would never have connected “cheesy grin” to “Say cheese!” and I don’t think many people would.

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Posted: 31 October 2018 08:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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The OED (Sep 2016) says:

This sense is probably influenced by the use of the word ‘cheese’ to induce a smile when being photographed

Not sure I buy it either, but “influenced by” is quite different from being derived from.

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Posted: 31 October 2018 09:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Dave Wilton - 07 July 2011 07:10 PM

...the 1896 citation from the OED that Etymonline cites is from a book of University of Michigan student slang.

Well there you go:  Obviously a reference to a football rivalry with the University of Wisconsin…

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Posted: 31 October 2018 09:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Apropos of cheese: It never made me smile when a photographer said, “ say cheese” I never understood the correlation.

OED says:

P4. to say cheese: to smile for a photograph, typically by saying the word ‘cheese’. Often in imperative. Also in say cheese attributive, designating a smile of this sort.

Never worked for me.
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