Posted by ESC on June 04, 2003
In Reply to: Heath Robinson posted by R. Berg on June 04, 2003
: : Some of you know that I have a collection of phrase origins
called 'The Bedtime Browser'. I get regular requests and messages
about phrase origins - two today, of which one came from a reporter
with Esquire magazine in New York.
: : The other author was intrigued why I hadn't included the phrase 'It's a bit of a Heath Robinson' in my list (for those of you who are unfamiliar with this phrase, it's well known in British English and means a situation of apparent muddle, mess, over complication etc). It is named after a famous English cartoonist whose work was characterised by drawings of pieces of equipment, often very over-elaborate, designed to perform apparently simple/unnecessary tasks.
: : The author supplied a link to many of the Heath Robinson drawings - a wonderful site and well worth a visit. I thought you all would like to know of it and so I've posted this message. Other parts of the site are also worth a look.
: : Is the expression known elsewhere in the English speaking world?
: : The link is below
: I hadn't heard of Mr. Robinson. In the U.S. we speak of "a Rube Goldberg contraption." Mr. Goldberg's cartoons similarly illustrated fanciful, overelaborate devices for doing something simple.
"British English from A to Zed" by Norman Schur (FirstHarperPerennial edition, 1991) says Mr. Goldberg is the equivalent of Heath Robinson.