Green behind the ears

This is a blend of “green with envy” (jealous) and “wet behind the ears” (novice, inexperienced).  I first heard this one back in 1984, and for some reason it seems to be a fairly common one.   Even President Obama said it during the 2008 Obama/McCain debates – see my Malaphors in the Media section on this website to watch him.  My guess on the mix up stems from the words green and wet, both adjectives for grass.

Perhaps a better interpretation comes from “my ol pal” in her comments.   “Green behind the gills” (nauseated) might be the blended idiom with “wet behind the ears” given that gills and ears are in close proximity and that the words “around” and “behind” both indicate location and are also both 6 letter words.  Let’s add to the equation “greenhorn” which means naive or new to the situation, identical to the definition of “wet behind the ears.”  Not sure what I would do without you, “my ol pal”.

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3 Comments on “Green behind the ears”

  1. Your ol' pal says:

    How about “Green around the gills” (Nauseated)? Gills are located approx. where ears would be.

    • davemalaphor says:

      I like that interpretation better. As you said, gills and ears are in close proximity, and the words around and behind both indicate location and are also both 6 letter words. Nice!!

  2. Ann says:

    Brian and I also thought green around the gills.


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