Posted by Lewis on March 13, 2003
In Reply to: Mind like a steel trap posted by R. Berg on March 13, 2003
: : : : Any ideas on the origin of... He has "a mind like a steel trap?"
: : : I am away from my library, so I'm guessing. Having a "mind like a steel trap" means immediately grasping new ideas, etc., like a trap snaps down on an animal's leg.
: : Yes I'd agree, except I also think it has the connotation of an intelligence that is brutally efficient, merciless and inescapable. For example, a lawyer with a mind like a steel trap would instantly seize upon the smallest of incongruities in a witness's testimony and use it to destroy his credibility.
: For me it doesn't have that latter set of associations. I understand it to mean very bright and incisive, tending to "seize on" the core of a logical matter immediately.
It usually implies sharp as well as very quick - I think it refers to mantraps, which snap like a mousetrap, but with teeth. I'd go for incisive, quick and, as you say, brutally effective.