Posted by Masakim on March 15, 2003
In Reply to: Mind like a steel trap posted by Tonya 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.
: I always thought the phrase refered to having a good memory. Someone with a "mind like a steel trap" could recall something that was in "his" trap.
mnd like a steel trap, have a Be very quick to understand
something, as in "Aunt Ida may be old, but she still has a mind like steel trap."
This simile likens the snapping of an animal trap to a quick mental grasp.
From _The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms_ by Christine Ammer.
A fellow who in those parts was considered as sharp as a steel trap.. (_Coonel Crockett's Exploits in Texas_, 1836)
She was a little thin woman, but tough as Inger rubber, and smart as a steel trap. (Stowe, _Oldtown Fireside Stories_, 1872)
He posted sentinel, bright and ready as a new steel-trap. (A.M. Binstead _Gal's Gossip_, 1899)
You're going up against a crook who is smart as a steel trap. (E.S. Gardner, _The Case of a Dangerous Dowager_, 1937)
He's rather amused by what he calls his steeltrap memory. "I have a tight grip on things in inverse proportion to their importance."(_Publisher's Weekly_, April 17, 1972).