An omelet without eggs
Posted: 25 February 2007 02:20 AM   [ Ignore ]
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From today’s Sunday Times magazine: “Aldous Huxley once described Noel Coward as an omelet without eggs.” Perhaps I’m not properly awake yet, but I’m having a problem with this. What does the phrase mean here?

Googling throws up examples of the phrase used literally and in such easily understandable contexts as, “A sanatorium without a doctor is like an omelet without eggs.” Nothing remotely similar to Huxley’s usage though.

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Posted: 25 February 2007 05:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Sounds like it’s the equivalent of “all hat and no cattle.”

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Posted: 25 February 2007 06:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I was going to add ”all mouth and (no) trousers”, even though that isn’t quite the same.  But I’ll add it anyway, because I like these insulting little phrases.  Another one that appeals is “fur coat and no knickers”.  Are they heard much in the south of England, anyone?

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Posted: 25 February 2007 08:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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It seems to me to mean “all sparkle and no substance” or the like, the usual judgment on the delightfully frivolous Coward.  I don’t think it’s a particularly successful variant, though, for precisely the reason that it doesn’t really work when you think too much about it.  Replace “omelet” with “souffle” and it might work a little better, souffles having the requisite lightness.

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Posted: 25 February 2007 10:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Eliza, I have always thought those insults to be Scottish, proably because I’ve only heard them said by Scots.  “Fur coat and no knickers” was given as a Glaswegian’s description of an Edinburgh girl (an Edinburgian? and why Glaswegian, not Glasgowan?).

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Posted: 25 February 2007 10:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Glaswegian:

Etymology: 19c: modelled on Galwegian a native of Galloway, itself modelled on Norwegian.

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Posted: 25 February 2007 04:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Are they heard much in the south of England, anyone?

Generally in a mock-Scottish accent.

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Posted: 25 February 2007 10:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Huxley’s remark about Noel Coward doesn’t strike me as particularly clever, or even worh quoting --- just gratuitously nasty. He may simply have been bothered that day with toothache, or sore hemorrhoids; or just have been feeling mean. I think such things happen to all of us occasionally, and at such times, the things we say are usually better forgotten than quoted.

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Posted: 26 February 2007 06:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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There’s also the (American?) expression, “you can’t make an omelet without breaking some eggs.” Different meaning, but the similarity suggests that Huxley may have been mixing a metaphor.

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Posted: 05 March 2007 01:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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ElizaD - 25 February 2007 06:04 AM

I was going to add ”all mouth and (no) trousers”, even though that isn’t quite the same.  But I’ll add it anyway, because I like these insulting little phrases.  Another one that appeals is “fur coat and no knickers”.  Are they heard much in the south of England, anyone?

Yep, but probably because there were students from the north of England at my college. A variation of ‘fur coat and no knickers’ which I liked was “red ‘at, no drawers” (though why red is a mystery)

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Posted: 05 March 2007 06:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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As long as the discussion is on the “all” theme, I used to work with a youngster (I was 30, he was 19) who was one of those jumpy guys ready for action. This was at a retail center and he was the two-stroke-motor champ—i.e. chainsaws and weed-eaters. He could sell them, service them, provide the necessary parts—in short, he had grown up in the biz and there was nothing about two-strokes he didn’t know. The supervisor was joking around one day and said, “D’ya know what a customer said about him? He’s all nuts and bones!” (The guy was skinny.) Unwillingly my eye shifted to the young’uns crotch region and the supe said, “You don’t have to look there, dipwad!”

Anyway, about Noel Coward, anybody who’d stake his reputation as a playwrite on the line “How far are you from Maidenhead?” from a man to a woman at a respectable getogether deserves all the opprobrium he can get. He’s a starched collar without the starch. Much like the difference between Sir Larry (those who know call him Larry) Olivier and Sir John (always John) Gielgud. The latter was a man of such insubstantial vagaries and unpleasantness that he never failed to please, whereas the former seemed to like the look of his visage on camera only too well. Perhaps I am too harsh.

Allright, allright, give NC a break, he deserves it. My god! what talent to little avail.

[ Edited: 05 March 2007 07:27 PM by foolscap ]
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