phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

An eager beaver

Posted by Smokey Stover on July 27, 2006

In Reply to: An eager beaver posted by Lewis on July 25, 2006

: : : : I'm looking for the beginning or History of the saying:
: : : : "eager beaver" I did not see it on your web-site.
: : : : Do you have an information on this saying ??

: : : Here's is what one reference says:

: : : EAGER BEAVER - "Referring, of course, to the industrious beaver, this near-rhyming expression is a Canadian Army one that isn't recorded before 1940, althought it obviously derives from such phrases as 'as busy as a beaver,' which dates back to the early 18th century. Unlike the early expression, however, 'eager beaver' is usually applied derisively to someone who is overly industrious, zealous." etc. From "Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins" by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 1997). Page 224.

: : It was also the title of a very popular Stan Kenton big band piece in 1943. There was no sense of derision at this time.

: I would have thought that there would have been a snigger years ago from ?Leftpondians?, bearing in mind the usage in that direction.

: Gives a whole new meaning to a 'beaver hat'.

: L

I don't know why Westpondians would be inclined to snicker at the phrase "eager beaver." Context is everything, and "eager beaver" has, as far as I know, escaped the snickers. So has "beaver hat," I think, although probably only because no one ever talks about beaver hats. It's true that Beaver College, which used to be a women's college near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, changed its name to Arcadia University specifically because of all the jokes. Imagine what the notes of the Board of Trustees must have looked like. But the College was pretty upfront about the reason for the name change.
On balance, though, since real beavers are a generally well-appreciated animal in North America, jokes about beavers seem only to occur when the subject of women has already been brought up in a vulgar manner. Making jokes about beavers could possibly cause people to mistake you for one of those drooling, gum-chewing, semi-articulate adolescent males with spikey hair.