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The meaning and origin of the expression: Not playing with a full deck

Not playing with a full deck

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What's the meaning of the phrase 'Not playing with a full deck'?

'Not playing with a full deck' might be said about someone who was considered stupid.

What's the origin of the phrase 'Not playing with a full deck'?

This is one of the many derogatory phrases that emerged in the latter half of the 20th century which allude to someone 'having a bit missing', 'not all there' etc. The implication being that the victim of the jocular insult lacked a portion of their brain. In this case the deck is of course a deck of cards. Anyone 'not playing with a full deck' wouldn't be expected to make much of a fist of card playing. The first example that I can find of the phrase is in a George Carlin comedy routine about a member of the Ku Klux Klan, on the Merv Griffin show in 1965.

Other common 'missing' phrases are:

- Doesn't have both oars in the water.
- One sandwich short of a picnic.
- The light's on but no one's at home.
- A few bricks short of a full load.

Gary Martin - the author of the website.

By Gary Martin

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