5

ain’t got the brains God gave a squirrel or ain’t got the sense God gave geese.

  • I have taken a liking to this phrase, however, to my colleagues, most of who are from Latin America and SE-Asia, it appeared a heavy idiomatic dose.

E.g.- Of these three idioms given below,

May I request a few simpler versions of "ain’t got the brains God gave a squirrel". I researched but to no avail.

  • 2
    What does your list of "take a *** to someone or something" have to do with your request? – Ian MacDonald Mar 10 '15 at 16:16
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    @JanusBahsJacquet Only if in those cultures squirrels and geese are considered stupid. In SE-Asia the most common 'stupid' animal is probably the Water Buffalo. I think Brits would be confused if someone said He's dumb as a fox, in the UK foxes are generally considered quite smart. I would think in the UK squirrels are probably considered quite intelligent; Geese, perhaps less so. – Frank Mar 10 '15 at 17:02
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    @JanusBahsJacquet Getting horribly off-topic, squirrels have amazing abilities to figure out how to steal food from 'squirrel proof' bird feeders. Geese are (or certainly were) used as guard 'dogs' and aren't stupid enough to be tricked by a laced steak. Roos aren't that stupid but they haven't quite mastered the 'don't run out in front of a car' thing yet, it's one of those mistakes you can't learn from. – Frank Mar 10 '15 at 17:19
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    @Frank I’m sure they do (and are)—but an animal’s actual ability to perform various tasks (roughly equivalent to what we might call ‘intelligence’) aren’t necessarily related to how they’re perceived in a given society. In most cultures that I know of, for example, pigs are generally thought of as dirty and stupid; but they are in fact very clean and highly ‘intelligent’ animals. Despite their actual intelligence, I doubt anyone would find ‘clever as a pig’ very flattering—or indeed find ‘dumb as a pig’ incongruous or confusing. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Mar 10 '15 at 17:40
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    It seems to me that "birdbrain" conveys the intended meaning and can be translated into any language without loss of meaning. – Hot Licks Mar 10 '15 at 23:54
5

[He] ain’t got the brains God gave a squirrel or ain’t got the sense God gave geese.

It seems your friends may be struggling with idiom overload:

  1. "Ain't" is a very informal replacement for "doesn't".
  2. "Got" is an informal expression for "have".
  3. "Brains" is idiomatic for intelligence.

Here is a simpler version to start with:

His brain is smaller than a squirrel's, so he doesn't even have the sense of a goose.

Then you can explain one idiomatic expression at a time, comparing the meaning to the simpler version, until they capture the original phrase.


A way to help them understand the metaphorical use of "take a shine to":

  1. When someone you like walks into the room, you smile brightly, and we say your face "shines" (like the sun shines).
  2. When you like someone you are just getting to know, you smile with that same shining face, you greet them cheerfully, you are very kind to them, and you do your best to impress them with your best qualities. We say you are "shining up to" them" (like you polish your silverware to welcome an important guest).
  3. When you like someone, and we can all see you are "shining up to them", we say "you have taken a shine to them" (like you are the silverware that has been polished).
  4. In all three cases, we are talking about how you behave and feel in terms of a pleasant shining light:

from etymonline.com

shine (n):

1520s, "brightness," from shine (v.). Meaning "polish given to a pair of boots" is from 1871. Derogatory meaning "black person" is from 1908 (perhaps from glossiness of skin or, on another guess, from frequent employment as shoeshines). Phrase to take a shine to "fancy" is American English slang from 1839, perhaps from shine up to "attempt to please as a suitor." Shiner is from late 14c. as "something that shines;" sense of "black eye" first recorded 1904.

shine (v):

Old English scinan "shed light, be radiant, be resplendent, iluminate," of persons, "be conspicuous" (class I strong verb; past tense scan, past participle scinen), from Proto-Germanic *skinan (cognates: Old Saxon and Old High German skinan, Old Norse and Old Frisian skina, Dutch schijnen, German scheinen, Gothic skeinan "to shine, appear"), from PIE root *skai- (2) "to gleam, shine, flicker" (cognates: Sanskrit chaya "brilliance, luster; shadow," Greek skia "shade," Old Church Slavonic sinati "to flash up, shine," Albanian he "shadow"). Transitive meaning "to black (boots)" is from 1610s. Related: Shined (in the shoe polish sense), otherwise shone; shining.

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5

Alternatively, you can tell someone he has nothing between the ears. (TFD)

If you say someone has nothing between their ears, you are saying they are stupid, that they have no brain.

With most idioms you cannot alter any of the words, but with this one there are a few variations:

  • She has nothing between the ears
  • He has nothing between his ears.
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4

Driving right to the point, the top ten hits from the Corpus in the last 60 years were He's as stupid as a:

  • Sheep
  • Donkey
  • Fish
  • Man (LOL!)
  • Cow
  • Goose
  • Horse
  • Pig
  • Stone
  • White Man

The list for British English is slightly different:

  • Fish
  • Donkey
  • Pig
  • Goose
  • Mule
  • Stone
  • Giant
  • Post

And in American English:

  • Man
  • Sheep
  • Horse
  • Mule
  • Fish
  • Cow
  • Goose
  • Post
  • Stone
  • Donkey

Clearly, women are more liberated in America :-)

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  • 2
    In British English in this context you'll often find the word "daft" rather than "stupid" (though both will do), which is alsp a little less judgmental in tone. So someone can be "daft as a post". "as daft as a brush" is also very common, particularly common, particularly among older people. – Dan Sheppard Mar 11 '15 at 0:46
3

Using other brain metaphors:

[He's] a bird-brain.

a stupid person

[He's] a feather-brain.

a stupid person

[He's] a brack-brain.

a stupid person

[He's] a lamebrain.

a fool

[He's] got shit for brains.

to be very stupid

Cambridge Idioms Dictionary, 2nd ed. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2006. Reproduced with permission.

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  • That was easy! LOL. – Good A.M. Mar 10 '15 at 23:27
0

He has less brains/intelligence than a sqirrel.

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