1 of 2
1
As happy as a clam
Posted: 05 March 2007 10:32 AM   [ Ignore ]
Avatar
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  246
Joined  2007-02-16

Our Big List dates this expression to 1834 (as does Quinion). However, the Online Etymology Dictionary claims a date of 1636.  Anyone any thoughts?

PS Dave, there’s a typo (x2) for “Curmudgeon” in the Big List (Now fixed)

Edited for precise date

[ Edited: 05 March 2007 08:46 PM by Skibberoo ]
Profile
 
 
Posted: 05 March 2007 10:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2839
Joined  2007-01-31

The OED2 has 1834 for “as happy as a clam”, and has only a few cites of “clam” (the mollusc), even in the literal sense, before 1650.  I’m very doubtful that etymonline’s date or their claim of the original form are backed up with solid evidence.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 05 March 2007 10:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2334
Joined  2007-01-30

That is a giant leap backwards. OED online has an earlier cite than the 1840s, but not by much.

1834 Harvardiana I. 121 That peculiar degree of satisfaction, usually denoted by the phrase ‘as happy as a clam’.

Clearly the phrase is older, as implied by the cite, but I don’t know what basis the Online Etymology Dictionary has for that 17th century date.

Just as I pressed the Post button I thought, “A pound to a penny that Doc has pipped me.” So it proved.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 05 March 2007 11:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2839
Joined  2007-01-31

This is curious.  Aldi’s post has clearly been edited, which I can tell both by internal evidence and because I saw the original version, before his final comment.  But it does not show the usual automatically inserted (I thought) notice that it has been edited.  Why not?

Edit: Apparently if one adds an edit quickly enough after posting, the post is not marked as edited.  I tried this on the “test” thread in the Test Discussion.

[ Edited: 05 March 2007 11:14 AM by Dr. Techie ]
Profile
 
 
Posted: 05 March 2007 02:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4750
Joined  2007-01-03

The Big List has the 1834 Harvardiana cite as well.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 05 March 2007 06:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  282
Joined  2007-02-23

Google Books finds an 1833 example which appears to be authentic.

(Note that Google Books dates cannot be believed AT ALL unless the date is actually present in the reproduced text!)

Profile
 
 
Posted: 06 March 2007 08:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2021
Joined  2007-02-19

why “as a clam”. I wonder? why, for that matter, as a sandboy (what’s a sandboy anyway?). I can see a rationale (not a very sound one, mind) for “happy as a king”; “happy as a pig in shit” is based on a popular, though misguided ........

.....at this point in my posting I cried out theatrically: “Stop! what are you doing?! Has wordorigins.org taught you nothing in all these months?” --- and then I set out to use some of the knowledge and skills I’ve acquired (only to a pitifully elementary level, I’m afraid) at this site, and the information came pouring out of the world wide web as though it would never stop. (573000 Google hits for “happy as a......”!) I found out, for instance, that “happy as a clam” makes less sense than a longer form commonly in use in the 19th century, “happy as a clam at high water”.  I found out what a sandboy is/was, and why he’d be likely to be happy only when inebriated (Aside: did Neil Armstrong really go on to say that about being “as happy as a dog with two dicks” after his small step/great step shtick?). There’s no end to the stuff. Of course there’s a monstrous amount of rubbish too, but that’s characteristic of human intellectual activity at all levels --- we’re as susceptible to rubbish as dung beetles ---, and sorting through it helps to sharpen one’s critical faculties.

So thank you, friends (I feel proud to call you so), and thank you first of all, Dave, for helping an old man to expand his horizons. I owe all of you a great deal.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 06 March 2007 08:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2839
Joined  2007-01-31

He sounds happy as an ammonite.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 06 March 2007 09:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2334
Joined  2007-01-30

Then there’s ‘happy as a pig in clover’, which I’ve always thought odd. Why should pigs have such a fondness for clover?

Profile
 
 
Posted: 06 March 2007 09:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
Avatar
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  246
Joined  2007-02-16

“He sounds happy as an ammonite.”

Another incomplete phrase?  Surely, “He sounds happy as an ammonite in a Mesozoic rock”, would have been more meaningful!

Profile
 
 
Posted: 06 March 2007 11:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2021
Joined  2007-02-19

I think of myself more as one of the Children of Israel, than of the children of Lot; nevertheless, an old fossil seemed to me an appropriate figure for an avatar. And an ammonite has more elegant lines than a trilobite.

And what’s the word on Mr. Armstrong?

Profile
 
 
Posted: 06 March 2007 12:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2839
Joined  2007-01-31

There’s at least one other urban legend about Armstrong saying something risque (but opaque to most listeners) right after delivering the small step/giant leap line.  It’s bogus, and I feel sure this one is too.  I can tell you that I was watching the live transmission, and I didn’t hear it then, nor hear of it any time before now, and it’s not in the transcript. Yeah, NASA could have censored it, but I can’t find any source for this allegation that’s worth the electrons it’s printed on.

[ Edited: 06 March 2007 12:49 PM by Dr. Techie ]
Profile
 
 
Posted: 06 March 2007 12:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  710
Joined  2007-02-07
aldiboronti - 06 March 2007 09:29 AM

Then there’s ‘happy as a pig in clover’, which I’ve always thought odd. Why should pigs have such a fondness for clover?

Because it is wonderful stuff!

This Wikipedia article confirms my recollection that it is (or was) a popular fodder crop.

When I was a lad, there was a clover field near my home and even now, remembering the sweet smell that came from it transports me back in time. Why clover would make anyone happy (even a pig) is obvious once you wallow around in it a bit.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 06 March 2007 01:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2021
Joined  2007-02-19

Thanks, Dr. T. I confess i didn’t care for the idea of Armstrong leaving his gravitas behind along with his gravity. It’s a damn stupid phrase, which only a berk (deserving of two dicks, one at least deep up his nose) would utter.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 06 March 2007 01:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4750
Joined  2007-01-03

Of course there is this courtesy of The Onion.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 06 March 2007 01:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  829
Joined  2007-03-01

When I was a lad, there was a clover field near my home and even now, remembering the sweet smell that came from it transports me back in time. Why clover would make anyone happy (even a pig) is obvious once you wallow around in it a bit.

So much so, that livestock can and will gorge themselves to a dangerous extent on it if they are allowed to do so - cf. the episode in Chapter 21 of Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd, in which Gabriel Oak is called in to puncture the rumens of a whole flock of sheep that have strayed into young clover and consequently swollen up like balloons. (When I was a young gel in Pony Club I was always given dire warnings against allowing my pony to eat clover).

Profile
 
 
   
1 of 2
1
 
‹‹ A couple of names      Roger ››