Thursday, December 10, 2009

I'm As Happy As A Clam

Christmas lights Florence Italy...

I was thinking the other day how I love all the twinkling lights of Christmas...on the tree, on the homes in the neighborhood, everywhere. They make me so happy....then I thought "happy as a clam". When I asked where does that saying come from? My friend Jen sent me the following answer. I'm sharing this little interesting story with you.

"Happy as a clam"

Meaning: Very happy and content.

Why would clams be happy? It has been suggested that open clams give the appearance of smiling. The derivation is more likely to come from the fuller version of the phrase, now rarely heard - 'as happy as a clam at high water'. Hide tide is when clams are free from the attentions of predators; surely the happiest of times in the bivalve mollusc world. The phrase originated in the north-eastern states of the USA in the early 19th century. The earliest citation that I can find is from a frontier memoir The Harpe's Head - A Legend of Kentucky, 1833:
"It never occurred to him to be discontented... He was as happy as a clam."

The first record that I can find of the 'high water' version is from the Pennsylvania newspaper The Adams Sentinel, August 1844:
"Crispin was soon hammering and whistling away as happy as a clam at high water."
The expression was well-enough known in the USA by the late 1840s for it to have been included in John Russell Bartlett's Dictionary Of Americanisms - A Glossary Words Aid Phrases Usually Regarded As Peculiar To The United States, 1848:
"As happy as a clam at high water," is a very common expression in those parts of the coast of New England where clams are found.
Also in 1848, the Southern Literary Messenger - Richmond, Virginia expressed the opinion that the phrase "is familiar to everyone".


menehune said...

Makes sense to me~when we were young, we use to clam by waiting for low tide. Then we would run along the wet shoreline and stamp our feet near a tiny hole in the wet sand. If water spurt up, we would dig and dig and dig until we found the clam. Now, quahogging, that's a much different story! Thanks for the folklore. m

barb cabot said...

Menuhune, now I'm going to have to read about "quahogging". Have a great day!

menehune said...

My family (uncles mostly - I tried it once) preferred the au natural style. You can rake them with a quahog rake (long handle, long thin tines close together) or dig them by hand or walk them up. Walking is, well, more natural. Standing in the muck up to your knees and feeling the mud squish trough your toes. Just walk the bars or shallows with your bare feet, feeling for a place just a bit more solid than its surroundings. If its round and smooth and heavy its a quahog or a mudder (mud filled shell). If its sharp and pointy, its a crab, jump off! (taken from CC Times)

barb cabot said...

It's true you can learn something new everyday. Thank you Menehuned!

Laurie said...

Oh I love to learn origins of sayings!

Anne said...

What a great story, we often use that expression Happy as a clam, it's fun to learn more about how it might have come into being!

Love the photo of Florence, my heart is happy at the very thought of spending Christmas there. Thanks! I also love the lights, my own tree has a thousand white lights...all I have on it for decorations are a few glass ornaments and my tinsel (not the plastic kind, the artisan kind, made of real tin, twisted into sticks with a hook on the end to hang them.)

Sandi @the WhistleStop Cafe said...

You always make me smile! Merry Christmas y'all~

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