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Busy as a beaver?

Posted by Smokey Stover on July 30, 2007

In Reply to: Busy as a beaver? posted by Smokey Stover on July 30, 2007

: : : "busy as a beaver" or "AS busy as a beaver" or both?

: : : I want to know if these two sentences are acceptable:

: : : a) She is busy as a beaver.: : : b) She is AS busy as a beaver.

: : : What is the difference between them?

: : : Well, actually, I'm thinking about the rule of simile. if we are to use "as", as I know, we always have to use two of them, to make a comparison.

: : : in consideration of this rule, I think the sentence "_______ is busy as a beaver" is incorrect. I think we need to say "__________ is AS busy as a beaver"

: : : or is the "as ______ as" rule not applicable to idioms?

: : : Is the "busy as a beaver" idiom taken as an adjective as a whole?

: : : I researched on the web and I found most of the examples say "___ is AS busy as a beaver" but others say simply " ____ is busy as a beaver".

: : Both. My opinion. On another subject, in the United States we put punctuation marks within quotations marks. "___ is busy as a beaver."

.................................................: The example in question is a somewhat colloquial cliché, so for stylistic reasons I would expect to see or hear "She's busy as a beaver...." I have used points of ellipsis here as I would expect the sentence to explain what she was busy doing, or perhaps the beaver. (V. "She was as busy as a cat trying to bury s h i t on a hot tin roof.") To make the sentence sound complete an adverb or adverbial phrase would do just as well.

The full expression is "as busy as a beaver," but ellipsis of the first "as" is quite normal. In formal writing and more elaborate comparisons you would probably retain it. The grammar is the same either way.

: I consider the expression "busy as a beaver," and the even more common "busy as a bee," to belong to the category of clichés, rather than idioms. They are idiomatic, with or without the first "as," only in the sense that they are part of the normal way of using the language.

Your question contains an implicit query about the grammar. The short explanation of "as busy as a beaver" and similar similes, is that the first "as" is an adverb, modifying "busy." The second "as" serves as a conjunction, linking the first clause to a subordinate clause, "as a beaver [is busy]." We do not need to repeat "is busy," the predicate of the first clause, when the second clause has the same predicate. In fact, it is stylistically gauche, not idiomatic English.

A more classic example of "as" as a conjunction you might see in, say, this sentence about Jack Spratt. You remember him, don't you? He was as lean as his wife was fat. Here the subordinate clause has its own predicate.

The word "as" has very many uses, and most can't be parsed in quite the same way as the "as . . . as" construction.

: ESC is correct about "commas and periods inside the parentheses," in American practice, although there are some exceptions. Tall punctuation marks (colon, semicolon, question mark, exclamation point) go outside the parentheses, again with some exceptions, particularly in the case of the question mark. British practice continues to require, I believe, that punctuation should normally lie outside the parentheses.