Jeez-o-Pete! What a crazy week. I tried to explain to Tory Stewart of the Winter’s Bone team that I’d been extremely busy, as in meeting myself at every turn. Only the expression I used, which is common in the Ozarks, was “busy as a one-armed Paper-hanger. Well, I forgot she was from New York, and the expression totally confuzzled her. She thought, since the laundromats there offer clothes hangers made of paper, I was referring to a broken hanger, and she couldn’t quite get how that would be busy. But then she looked up the expression and issued a city slicker alert. In case you’re not getting it yet, I was referring to a [wall] PA-per hanger, not a paper HANG-er. As to why an idiom for busy refers to lost appendages, I have no idea, but it’s right up there with “Busy as a one-legged man in an arse-kicking contest.” Where do we get this stuff, anyway?
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I grew up in Iowa and my dad used to use the same expression. I wonder if it’s a generational thing rather than a regional thing – since now they don’t really put up wallpaper the way that they used to. Maybe the whole concept of a bucket of glue and a roll of slimy paper being squeegeed onto a wall is just to foreign a concept for the younger generation to relate too. (Plus, unlike blacksmiths and carriage makers, you seldom see paper hangers in the movies…)