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Happy as a clam

Posted by James Briggs on March 21, 2003

In Reply to: Happy as a clam posted by Bookworm on March 21, 2003

: : What is the end of this phrase? "As happy as a "

: II am sure that there are many variations, but the most common is "happy as a clam".
: Now, as to why a clam would be so elated, I had no idea. Turns out that there is even more
: to the phrase. I Googled it and came up with the following:

: The saying is very definitely American, hardly known elsewhere. The fact is, we've lost its second
: half, which makes everything clear. The full expression is happy as a clam at high tide or happy as a
: clam at high water. Clam digging has to be done at low tide, when you stand a chance of finding
: them and extracting them. At high water, clams are comfortably covered in water and so able to
: feed, comparatively at ease and free of the risk that some hunter will rip them untimely from their
: sandy berths. I guess that's a good enough definition of happy.
: The saying in its shortened form is first recorded in the 1830s, though it is almost certainly a lot
: older; by 1848 the Southern Literary Messenger of Richmond, Virginia could say that the
: expression in its short form "is familiar to every one".

In Britain its 'happy as a sandboy'. Here's what I believe to be the origin - I live in Bristol UK and perhaps I'm biased about the precise site, but the basic principle is, I believe, true.

As happy as a sandboy is an expression which implies blissful contentment. I believe that the saying is truly Bristolian in origin. On Bathurst basin, in the City centre is the long established Ostrich Inn. The Inn is immediately adjacent to the Redcliff caves which, in their day, were a prime source of sand. Past landlords of the Inn used to send little boys ie Sandboys into the caves to collect sand to spread on the floor of the Inn to soak up the beer and ale droppings (much like butchers used to put sawdust on the floor of their shops). The Sandboys were paid for their efforts in beer. They were indeed happy.