Posted by Arthur on May 14, 2005
The following was the last posting on this phrase, from 2000:
Posted by ESC on December 05, 2000
In Reply to: Cute as a Button posted by Noah Youn on December 05, 2000
: this saying is listed but I cant find the it. I also looked though this bulletin board and only found one entry, but doesnt really explain much. so if anyone can please help me find out what the meaning and orign of the saying "cute as a button" or at least how it came to use, it would be greatly appreciated.
This is all I know:
CUTE AS A BUTTON - "cute, charming, attractive, almost always with the connotation of being small, 1868 (from the original 1731 English meaning of 'acute' or clever). Cute as a bug's ear, 1930; cute as a bug in a rug, 1942; cute as a button, 1946. Cute and keen were two of the most overused slang words of the late 1920s and 1930s." From "Listening to America" by Stuart Berg Flexner (Simon and Schuster, New York, 1992.)
Flexner may have an idea about the word "cute," but he provides no guidance on the question of how a button can be cute. The key to the issue is that it is not the button on a shirt that is meant here, but a flower bud seen in the popular name of small flowers, such as bachelor's button (q.v. "button" (n) in the OED, meanings 2 and 3).