What does “A Few Sandwiches Short of a Picnic” mean in British slang?

Today we will be exploring idiomatic phrases that I would say are rare gems of slang. Before we start, I want to give you some context.

You and your friend have decided to go for a day at the beach, you have been planning this trip for a long time, you have organised everything and finally the morning comes. Just as you are about to set off your friend, who should be driving informs you that his driving license expired one month ago!

Now what would we say about this friend, that he is stupid? dumb? Oh no we can be much more creative than that!

How about using some idiomatic phrases?

We could say that this person is a few two sandwiches short of a picnic. This phrase is used to indicate in a humorous way that you think someone is very stupid or is behaving very strangely. Basically meaning they are almost complete but not fully. ‘A few sandwiches short of a picnic’ is fairly recent. The first citation of it was documented in a BBC’s Christmas Special in December 1987.

This pejorative phrase meaning not very intelligent or of questionable mental capacity can appear in many different forms and variations .

There are many phrases of the form ‘an X short of a Y’. These all mean the same thing, that is, the person being spoken of is stupid. The ‘short of’ insult began in Australia and New Zealand in the mid 19th century.

I have found it can be traced back to 1852 when Colonel Godfrey Mundy wrote:

  • “Let no man having, a shingle short try this country.”

Basically meaning that he did not want anyone stupid to come and live in his country.

Many of these phrases have been adapted while always including having something loose or missing for example we could say something is A few crumbs short of a biscuit or A few cards short of a full deck. So the next time you want to call someone stupid try to be a bit more creative about it! Remember the form ‘an X short of a Y’.

That’s the end of our episode so remember to tune in for our next episode so see what new slang we have in store for you!

If you can think of any great Slang insults we would love to hear them.

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