fold like a cheap X

More snowclone fun! Found by David Fenton in a posting on

After weeks of talking tough about how they were too fiscally responsible to take stimulus money from the federal government, the cast of 2012 GOP governor-wannabes, Sarah Palin, Bobby Jindal and Mark Sanford, folded like cheap tents…

Fenton found the cheap tent version surprising and puzzling; he would have expected cheap suit instead. It turns out that both variants of the Fold Like a Cheap X ‘give up easily’ snowclone are reasonably frequent — and that there are variants with lots of other fillers for X.

First, a word about the sense of fold in the snowclone. NOAD2 gives three relevant senses for intransitive fold, all labeled as “informal”:

(of an enterprise or organization) cease operating as a result of financial problems or lack of support

(esp. of a sports player or team) suddenly stop performing well or effectively

(of a poker player) drop out of a hand

These are all more specific than the sense of fold in the snowclone, though clearly related to it. The snowclone has a more general sense ‘give up’, an extension of one or more of these specialized uses.

Then like a cheap X contributes the meaning ‘easily, quickly’. Almost all the fillers for X refer to things that can be folded (see below). Tent probably got in there from Longfellow, The Day is Done:

And the night shall be filled with music,
And the cares, that infest the day,
Shall fold their tents, like the Arabs,
And as silently steal away.

(There are any number of allusions and plays on “fold their tents and silently steal away” out there, by the way.)

Suit would not have been my first choice as a filler for X, suits (even cheap ones) not being notable for ease of folding. But maybe the cliché “all over someone like a cheap suit” promoted suit for X.

Fenton managed to find some sites with both suit and tent in them, for example:

Sharona Fleming: I can’t believe you folded like a cheap suit!
Adrian Monk: Tent. For the record, I folded like a cheap tent. (link)

And here:

Barry [Barack Obama] will fold up like a cheap suit. Good bye Poland, Ukraine, Baltic States…  (#7 posted on Thursday, November 06, 2008 11:11:50 AM by Eric in the Ozarks)

America’s enemies are putting everything in place for a multiple front attack on America’s allies. And Obama might just fold like a cheap tent. (#22 posted on Thursday, November 06, 2008 12:13:05 PM by Loyalist (Tory! Tory! Tory!)

Plus a fair number from sports discussions (where the sports usage of fold might be relevant).

Finally, some other fillers. Green suit, an expansion of plain suit. Deck of cards, possibly a reflection of the use of fold in card-playing. And plenty of items that are foldable in one way or another:

shirt, suitcase [yes, there are folding suitcases], umbrella, cocktail umbrella, lawn chair, deck chair, lounge chair, card table, pocket-knife, wallet, blanket, accordion

(On the suit vs. tent issue, I have no opinion, by the way).

3 Responses to “fold like a cheap X”

  1. mollymooly Says:

    There’s Lisa Simpson’s union song:
    “We’ll march till we drop, the girls and the fellas;
    we’ll fight till the death or else fold like umbrellas.”
    The choice of simile was perhaps constrained by the needs of rhyme and meter.

  2. travis wilde Says:

    Dick Morris used “cheap suit” today 2/5/10 on Fox. That impelled the search which led me here. I am reminded of NYC’s talk radio host Bob Grant who uses “fold like a cheap camera”

    My grandmother used it too.

  3. Wanda Says:

    My husband just said “fold like a cheap potato.” He’s an immigrant. That’s why I love him.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: