"That's a great deal to make one word mean," Alice said in a thoughtful tone. "When I make a word do a lot of work like that," said Humpty Dumpty, "I always pay it extra."

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

The Bee's Knees

Lots of animal phrases are used to suggest that something is especially good. Phrases like 'The Bee's Knees' and 'The Cat's Whiskers' and more recently - and consequently more crudely - 'The Dog's Bollocks'. But, unknown to me until recently, there have been plenty of others - mostly originating (and in some cases dying) in the 1920s. These included 'The Sardine's Whiskers'; 'The Elephant's Instep'; 'The Snake's Hips' and, best of all, 'The Kipper's Knickers'.

(Sadly, it should be noted that in the 1920s the term knickers was not the name for the brief ladies underwear that it is used for today. Knickers in those days were short trousers that ended just above or below the knees and were gathered in at the bottom. For example, men wore knickers for playing golf.)

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