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Has anyone ever heard the expression - in answer to being asked 'what are you doing' - 'I'm tickling the baby with the meat axe? My father used to say this to me when I was a child, around 1955, and though I've done a little research, I haven't found the expression yet. There's a veiled threat there, but I never really understood what it meant.

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    It is not a common phrase; Googling it yielded 4 hits, two of which were right here, and the other a dupe. And I agree, it certainly sounds a bit menacing. Likely only your father can explain it. – anongoodnurse Dec 26 '15 at 23:56
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    If this was your father's all-purpose reply, it likely meant "None of your business." Since the purported act is both absurd and menacing, I'd guess it was intended to convey nothing about what he was really doing while halting further inquiry. – deadrat Dec 27 '15 at 1:15
  • I do not know but if I had to guess it sounds like he was confessing to doing something he very obviously should not have been doing. One possible implication to that is that he may have felt like you were interrogating him. Another might be that whatever he's doing, it's moronic. It's hard to say as things are. Did he have a specific tonality when saying it? – Tonepoet Dec 27 '15 at 1:33
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I've never heard the phrase either, but if I had to guess, I'd say that it probably means something along the lines of "performing a delicate operation haphazardly."

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