You Dirty Rat As Said By James Cagney

Pests are not only part of our lives (whether we like it or not) but they are also a part of our language. I often use the term “blind as a bat” or call someone a “busy bee”. There are in fact a great many pest similes out there that people use quite freely.

taxiDid you know that the expression “dirty rat” is one of the most misquoted lines from a film from the James Cagney movie “Taxi”. The closest he got to it was: “Come out and take it, you dirty, yellow-bellied rat, or I’ll give it to you through the door!” Anyway, there are loads of pest sayings, but how much truth is there in them? And how much of a nuisance can the mentioned pest actually be?

  • Free as a bird = correct. This is a rather nice simile, quite truthful and the title of a Beatles track I think. Bird mites, unsightly droppings, damaged woodwork. Need I continue?
  • Slimey as a snake = false. Snakes have quite dry skin in fact. Not such a problem in Ireland, but for other countries it can be an issue and a dangerous one if you happen to come fact to face with one.
  • Quiet as a mouse = debatable. Yes, mice can be quiet, but if you have a house mouse in your home, which has taken a fancy to chewing through your wiring or living in your loft, you may well disagree!
  • Fruit batBlind as a bat = false. Bats are born blind, but gain their eyesight within weeks. Though their eyesight may not be brilliant, they are not blind. They are also a protected species, and you should never personally attempt to remove them from your home.
  • Dirty as a rat = false. Rats are in fact very clean animals – grooming is important to them. However, it is the environment in which they live, e.g. sewers, that make them dirty allowing them to transfer bacteria from one place to another.
  • House flyLike flies to honey = correct. Flies are indeed attracted to food sources. They are a real nuisance in the spring and summer months…buzzing noises, flies hovering round the dinner table, dead flies on window sills – sound like a familiar problem? (Yes, I hold my hands up, this is not technically a simile, but a common phrase nonetheless and worth a mention – so, shoot me!)

Other pest similes that I have come across also make me wonder, such as…. As loose as a goose?? As poor as a church mouse?? As bald as a badger?? As blind as a mole?? Do you know of any others?

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