I ran across the expression "as useful as a chocolate teapot" (or sometimes a fireguard) which is apparently used to denote the utter uselessness of something. It received some coverage on Language Log back in 2004. Where/how did the expression originate?
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Eric Partridge and Paul Beale's Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English (8th edition, 1984, s.v. much use as) gives an example of "chocolate teapot" from the Guardian, January 1979.
I haven't found any earlier examples, and don't know where it came about; though there are a few references to it on lists of Irish slang, I don't personally associate it with Irish English. The logic is presumably that if you used a chocolate teapot then it would melt, though research shows that this is not always true!
The expression was used in The Guardian of 17th July 1978 in an article titled "Barnsley bashers face the chop", written by Michael Parkin:
The phrase is repeated in The Guardian of 13th February 1980 in "Barnsley go down and the fans love it", again by Parkin:
A 1981 Google Books snippet also points to the terraces as origin for this ironic simile. Desmond Morris's The Soccer Tribe (1981) describes 'The Jokers':
Wikipedia confirms the date and says:
I found this in a Google Books snippet (so no further context) from The Accountant for 1981:
This suggests that the phrase may come from one of the many humorous business training videos which Cleese's company Video Arts produced in the 1970s.