phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

Rocket Scientist

Posted by ESC on August 20, 2004

In Reply to: Rocket Scientist posted by DH on August 20, 2004

: : : : : From SlangSite:

: : : : : atom splitter: Sarcastic description of an unintelligent person...
: : : : :
: : : : : Alternatively, a hangover of magnificent proportions...

: : : : : So far, can find no support for either of these definitions. Anybody? Thanks

: : : : Calling a 'stupid' person an 'atom splitter' is right up there with calling them a 'brain surgeon'. The implication being that it takes more than a modicum of intelligence to be a brain surgeon, and splitting the atom was something of a feat too. So 'atom splitter' is the antithesis of 'unintelligent person' - hence the sarcasm.

: : : : As for the hangover theory, well that's a new one on me. Presumably the implication is that the hangover is of such monumental proportions as to be as momentous as the splitting of the atom. I dunno - just a theory!!

: : : There is a beer from the Orkney Brewery called "Skull-Splitter" - those Orcadians had to find something to do on those dark lonely nights in the North Atlantic...

: : A term used in a slightly different way in the States is 'rocket scientist'. Someone might say about some accomplishment -- you don't have to be a rocket scientist to do that! This term became popular after the triumphs of NASA in the 60s and 70s, when being a rocket scientist was about as impressive as you could get.

: Thank you guys--your comments agree quite closely with the definition I cited, from SlangSite

: However, I spend quite a spell Googling the expression and couldn't find a single additional example of the usage, suggesting it hasn't exactly caught on

ROCKET SCIENTIST - 1985. ".The world of the rocket scientist was, and still is, perceived as one in which complex thinking rests on an understanding of mathematics, aerodynamics, materials, and chemistry beyond the grasp of the rest of the human race. Their opinion was respected: 'Take it from the rocket scientists who expect to fly to mars some day,' said the Baltimore 'Sun' in 1952. 'Flying saucers are not space ships from other planets.' But by the mid-80s, as near as lexicographers can determine, 'rocket scientist underwent a subtle change in meaning. Rocket scientists were no longer so often in the news. When they were mentioned, it was in the phrase 'You don't have to be a rocket scientist'. Why 'rocket scientist' instead of, say, 'computer scientist' for this phrase? Perhaps because computer scientists were all-too-familiar 'geeks' , while 'rocket scientist' called up the old image of a German-accented professor, something of an Albert Einstein." From "America in So Many Words: Words That Have Shaped America" by Allen Metcalf and David K. Barnhart (Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston & New York, 1997).

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