Two idioms

English translation: Neither very common nowadays

16:55 Mar 7, 2010
English language (monolingual) [Non-PRO]
Art/Literary - Idioms / Maxims / Sayings
English term or phrase: Two idioms
1. soft in the head - mentally deficient; also, silly, foolish
2. bee's knees - cool, excellent

The question I think is more for native speakers, but everybody is welcome to answer too. How often can you meet these two idioms nowadays? Used pretty often? Or old and forgotten?

TIA
Oleksiy Markunin
Canada
Local time: 00:29
Selected answer:Neither very common nowadays
Explanation:
"Soft (or weak) in the head" is used occasionally.
"The bees knees" has a distinctly nineteen-twenties or at least pre-war flavour about it.

But both are still quite readily understood.

This is from the UK point of view, but I doubt if the US is different.
Selected response from:

Jack Doughty
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:29
Grading comment
Jack and everyone thank you so much for clearing out this info for me. Frequency of use is always pain in the ass, if you excuse my French
=) You helped me a lot and thanks for small discussion in comments!



SUMMARY OF ALL EXPLANATIONS PROVIDED
4 +7Neither very common nowadays
Jack Doughty
3 +2two idioms, one still heard
Stephanie Ezrol
4both still used
B D Finch


  

Answers


13 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5 peer agreement (net): +7
two idioms
Neither very common nowadays


Explanation:
"Soft (or weak) in the head" is used occasionally.
"The bees knees" has a distinctly nineteen-twenties or at least pre-war flavour about it.

But both are still quite readily understood.

This is from the UK point of view, but I doubt if the US is different.

Jack Doughty
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:29
Specializes in field
Native speaker of: English
PRO pts in category: 80
Grading comment
Jack and everyone thank you so much for clearing out this info for me. Frequency of use is always pain in the ass, if you excuse my French
=) You helped me a lot and thanks for small discussion in comments!

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Sheila Wilson: still around, but I doubt that young people use them. Nowadays the first is customised in the format: One X short of a Y // Strange, I would have thought that saying would have come from the other side of the Pennines! ;-)
6 mins
  -> Thank you. Yorkshire people have a self deprecatory saying: "Yorkshire born and Yorkshire bred, strong in t' arm and weak in t' head."

agree  John Detre: "Soft in the head" is used in North American English; "bees knees" is never used and I'm not sure everyone would undestand it. // Yes it did but I never hear it except in old movies, not sure if it's universally understood today.
8 mins
  -> Thank you. I believe "bee's knees" originated in North America though.// Yes, it did. See http://www.yaelf.com/aueFAQ/mifbeesknees.shtml

agree  Rolf Keiser
23 mins
  -> Thank you.

agree  Filippe Vasconcellos de Freitas Guimarães: Not sure about "readily understood" (in the US at least), but your assessment is spot on.
40 mins
  -> Thank you.

agree  Marie Scarano: I'm afraid bees knees has gone the way of the cat's pajamas.
40 mins
  -> Thank you. Yes, along with flappers and "It" girls.

agree  British Diana: I have a friend (BE) who uses "bees knees" constantly, I never know what it means!
1 hr
  -> Thank you.

neutral  oberonsghost: I still hear them enough to think that they're not that rare in Australian english. We also have the ants pants to counter the bees knees and cat's pyjamas. No, we keep the duck's nuts in kangaroo pouches!
3 hrs
  -> No surprise that it's different down under. Do you keep the pants and pyjamas in the kangaroo's pouch?

agree  Paula Vaz-Carreiro: I sometimes hear thirty-somethings saying "bees knees" but I haven't heard/seen "soft in the head" expect in films/books.
16 hrs
  -> Thank you. I haven't heard either in conversation for a long time.
Login to enter a peer comment (or grade)

19 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 3/5Answerer confidence 3/5 peer agreement (net): +2
two idioms
two idioms, one still heard


Explanation:
I have heard "soft in the head," but have never heard the "bees knees." Take this as an answer from one American. I think "soft in the head" is still used.

Stephanie Ezrol
United States
Local time: 00:29
Works in field
Native speaker of: English
PRO pts in category: 19

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Filippe Vasconcellos de Freitas Guimarães: I"m sure "soft in the head" is still used occasionally, but the last time I heard "the bee's knees" was in a GEICO spot! :)
33 mins

agree  jccantrell: I have heard "soft" in the USA off and on, but the bee's knees went out in the 20s, except for GEICO!
9 hrs

neutral  juvera: I have to stand up for "the bee's knees", I thought it was a fairly common expression, if a bit old fashioned. "9 Apr 2009 ... Michelle Obama's Got the Bee's Knees."
17 hrs
Login to enter a peer comment (or grade)

19 hrs   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5
two idioms
both still used


Explanation:
Perhaps I'm showing my age, but I am sure that I still hear (and occasionally use) both of these.

The bee's knees is a jokey corruption of "the business" and the corruption is often emphasised by spelling it "beez kneez" and stressing the "eez" when saying it, so it doesn't exactly mean "cool, excellent", though that is close. It is more: just the right thing, perfect ...". Also a reference to the pollen sacs on bees' legs.

I think "soft in the head" is used more in the North of England.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 1 day21 hrs (2010-03-09 14:04:51 GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

Re the cat's pyjamas, which really is archaic, It might be about tabby cats looking as though they were wearing traditional striped pyjamas (at a stretch of the imagination).

B D Finch
France
Local time: 06:29
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in category: 36
Login to enter a peer comment (or grade)



Login or register (free and only takes a few minutes) to participate in this question.

You will also have access to many other tools and opportunities designed for those who have language-related jobs (or are passionate about them). Participation is free and the site has a strict confidentiality policy.

KudoZ™ translation help

The KudoZ network provides a framework for translators and others to assist each other with translations or explanations of terms and short phrases.


See also:

Your current localization setting

English

Select a language

Term search
  • All of ProZ.com
  • Term search
  • Jobs
  • Forums
  • Multiple search