He is green around the edges

On the National Geographic show Life Below Zero, one of the cast members (Sue Aikens) commented about getting help from one of her nephews and said that he was green around the edges.  This is a mash up of “green” or “a little green” (rookie, not having much experience) and “rough around the edges” (unsophisticated or not refined).  “Green around the gills” (look ill and pale) might also be in the mix given the word “around”.  This malaphor reminds me of a classic uttered by then Senator Barack Obama.  In the second debate, Obama said that McCain would want the public to think that he (Obama) was “green behind the ears” when it came to foreign policy.  See my post:  https://malaphors.com/2012/08/08/green-behind-the-ears/.   Whether it’s wet or rough, it always seems to be green!  A big thanks to Mike Ameel for hearing this one and passing it along!

life below zero


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”.