OBH information

Two One Big Happy strips that appeared in my comics feed recently: from 10/31 (Halloween), with Joe displaying information about tv shows; and from 11/1, with Ruthie displaying molluscular information she has gleaned:



The tv lineup.The trick-or-treaters represent one (animated) children’s show (Dora the Explorer) and one show with prominent kid characters (The Simpsons), though it’s an adult-oriented animated sitcom. And then Joe throws in the mother, identifying her as from the definitely adult (and non-animated) sitcom Desperate Housewives — at the top of the adult-rated scale here.

If only the father had come too. Then Joe might have identified him as a character from porn — Harry Reems‘s Doctor Young in Deep Throat or The Teacher in The Devil in Miss Jones, say — taking the whole adult theme one step further.

Happy as a clam. Ruthie’s explanation for the formulaic happy as a clam is a popular one — an idea that many people have come to through reasoning from their experience, with the open mouths of smiling people and with open clams like these:


Here’s that idea in a graphic design from the idiom arts & gifts site:


But plausibility isn’t truth, and the history in this case seems pretty clear. From Michael Quinion’s World Wide Words site on 7/20/02:

Near that stage in their lives [when they are dug out of the sand], only the most masochistic of molluscs could be expected to experience anything but a sense of imminent dread. Even the most comfortable of clams, however, can hardly be called the life and soul of the party. All they can expect is a watery existence, likely at any moment to be rudely interrupted by a man with a spade, followed by conveyance to a very hot place.

… The saying is very definitely American, hardly known elsewhere. The fact is, we’ve lost its second half, which makes everything clear. The full expression is happy as a clam at high tide or happy as a clam at high water. Clam digging has to be done at low tide, when you stand a chance of finding them and extracting them. At high water, clams are comfortably covered in water and so able to feed, comparatively at ease and free of the risk that some hunter will rip them untimely from their sandy berths. I guess that’s a good enough definition of happy.

The saying in its shortened form is first recorded in the 1830s, though it is almost certainly a lot older; by 1848 the Southern Literary Messenger of Richmond, Virginia could say that the expression in its short form “is familiar to every one”.

2 Responses to “OBH information”

  1. chrishansenhome Says:

    I suspect that the falling away of the full expression “Happy as a clam at high water” happened in places where there were no clams to be found. In my home town, Marblehead, Massachusetts, there is a set of officials called “Shellfish Constables”, whose duty was to police the beaches to ensure that clamdiggers were licensed, weren’t digging up clams that were too small, or digging at times that weren’t allowed by law. We always used the full phrase “Happy as a clam at high water”. https://www.marblehead.org/shellfish-constables

  2. Robert Coren Says:

    There’s a radio ad for GEICO insurance in which a customer declares herself (in over-enthusiastic tones) to be “happy as a clam”, whereupon a mock disclaimer ensues to tell the listener that GEICO cannot in fact guarantee that clams are happy, or can even experience happiness (and then goes on to yet greater ridiculousness).

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