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I was wondering if there exists a British expression to denote a flawless/good/spotless person. I'm thinking of using it in a context similar to 'he's no saint', which if I'm not wrong, is American. I would like to be able to use it with the following sentence construction: "He's a far cry from __ himself." Would it be correct to use 'spick and span' in this instance? Are there any other (more appropriate) alternatives?

Thanks very much.

  • American???????? – RyeɃreḁd Sep 14 '13 at 4:56
  • The American spelling is 'spic and span'. But that refers to the state of cleanliness of a room and not a person in AmE. – Mitch Sep 14 '13 at 14:14
  • I thought "Spic and Span" was just a brand name? – Roaring Fish Sep 14 '13 at 14:51
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Spick and span would be inappropriate to use in this instance as it usually refers to something being spotless; without a fleck of dust; usually a room or a home where everything is very clean, and almost shiny in appearance. I doubt many would use this expression to describe a person's character.

If you're looking for a British type of expression (but Americans will be familiar with these terms too) you could try these:

To be "perfect" is generally understood to mean someone whose character is without flaw, I wouldn't classify the adjective as being British, although it fits in quite nicely with your phrase.

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One of the alleged origins of "spick and span" is that "spick" is a spike, or nail, which is shiny and clean when new; figuratively like as bright as a new pin. A "span" can be newly cut wood, so the general meaning of "spick and span" is "like new", and not really appropriate to apply to a person.

For a person, I would use "no angel" - "he is no angel" - or maybe "squeaky clean" - "he is not squeaky clean himself".

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He's a far cry from an angel is common usage in the UK, but so is saint. Mother Theresa is often used as well, as in "not exactly Mother Theresa". With a different phrasing of the sentence, impeccable (without stain) would suit.

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My premise is their is no spotless/flawless person. yet it is possible for everyone to tend towards being a saint (or have some iota of it). hence to say "he is a far cry from his sainthood", would mean, "while he could have shown some gesture of being a truthful man, he is turning out to be a far cry from his sainthood".

  • Try to substantiate your answer with some good references, usage examples, etc. Support with links to the references. This answer could have earned up votes. – Kris Sep 14 '13 at 11:31
  • The OP is looking for flawless. Someone a 'far cry' from sainthood has -lots- of flaws. Can you explain what you mean? – Mitch Sep 14 '13 at 19:14

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