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I've always thought that "cold pizza" was an expression used mainly to refer to a boring, uninteresting person or an unexciting event whose images call to mind that of an unappetising cold pizza.

According to Ngram "cold pizza" has been used increasingly from the early 70's.

The is no clear reference on this expression (just UD mentions it) and its figurative usage may lend itself to different interpretations at times, but I've noticed that it is often used referring to breakfast:

From The Amazing Adventures of a Marginally Successful Musician

  • If you haven't had cold pizza for breakfast, you're not a musician and therefore, I'll refund your money for this book.

From The Crossroads: A Haunted Mystery:

  • You know, in law school, we used to eat cold pizza for breakfast...

It is also the name of a TV sports morning talk show in the U.S.

Questions:

1) Is the expression actually used to refer to a boring, uninteresting person?

2) What are the other (if there are) figurative usages of "cold pizza"?

3) Is it mainly, as it appears, an AmE expression?

EDIT: I know that the expression comes from some eating habits of American people, my question is about the figurative usage of what a piece of cold pizza may suggest.

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    (a) There is nothing wrong with eating cold pizza, (b) I have never heard 'cold pizza' used figuratively, and (c) I don't know why anyone would equate "cold pizza" to "boring", "uninteresting", or "unappetizing".
    – Hellion
    Jan 13 '16 at 16:59
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    "Cold pizza" refers to people who eat their leftover pizza from the previous night, either straight from the fridge or in its pizza box. I don't think there is a secondary meaning. Some Americans have tendency to buy family or jumbo-sized pizzas... even when they are single.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jan 13 '16 at 17:07
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    I think there is a connotation about a lifestyle which includes cold pizza for breakfast. 1. The pizza is take out/delivery from group activities or festivities the prior evening 2. The household has no other breakfast options. 3. The person happily deviates from the convention that pizza is a. not for breakfast and b. should not be eaten cold.
    – Val
    Jan 13 '16 at 17:22
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    In addition, this particular quote is referring to the difficulty many musicians face, which is financial success. Leftover pizza for breakfast indicates not just that the person doesn't have anything handy to eat for breakfast other than leftovers, but that financially that may be the only option. Plus the pizza was probably paid for by someone else. As a musician, this is how I understand it. ;-)
    – Tim Ward
    Jan 13 '16 at 17:46
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    I, being a native AmE speaker, have never heard "cold pizza" used as a figure of speech. I have always seen it used in the literal sense, where someone is actually eating refrigerated, leftover pizza. In both of the usage examples you give, the individuals are literally eating cold pizza, which indicates their relative poverty as college students and musicians.
    – Dr. Funk
    Jan 13 '16 at 22:01
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I undertook arduous, minute-long searches in the Ngram viewer (nothing) and on the google for search strings

"that's a cold pizza"
"it's a cold pizza"
"he's a cold pizza"
"was a cold pizza"
"is a cold pizza"

I got lots of restaurant reviews (mostly negative, of course), a link to the lyrics of the song "Cold Pizza Warm Beer" by Gaye Adegbalola

It’s just the morning after, I don’t remember who was here.
I’ll eat a slice of that cold pizza, and wash it down with warm beer.

references to the sports talk show on ESPN2, and instructions for making a palatable breakfast. Possibly the song lyric is metaphorical. I was about to give up when I ran into this from an article in Time Magazine (August 29, 2011) entitled "Another Slice of 'Cold Pizza'? The Man Most Likely to Lead Japan" about then Japanese Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda, who was expected to become Prime Minister:

Can Noda lead? Analysts are not sanguine. "He emerged as a compromise," says Jeff Kingston, Director of Asian studies at Temple University Japan. "He's not charismatic, or a populist or a good communicator, [and] not a particularly bold or visionary leader. He's sort of a 'Steady Eddy' and doesn't raise expectations that much. ... Says Yoshi Yamamoto, a political advisor to DPJ [Democratic Party of Japan] congressmen: "Noda seems a bit like the former LDP [Liberal Democratic Party] prime minister Keizo Obuchi [in the 1990s], generally known internationally as a 'cold pizza,' but respected domestically by working level staffers and officials as someone who listens and rewards."

I can find no uses for Urban Dictionary's claims for sexual and drug connotations.

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  • Good finding, that is the usage I have heard too.
    – user66974
    Jan 13 '16 at 18:16
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    Do you think that is a one-off usage? I have herd it used that way in spoken language, but from the comments above it appears that it is not that common, and mostly that American people actually love cold pizza.
    – user66974
    Jan 13 '16 at 18:51
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    Who said anything about loving cold pizza? It's either laziness or sheer hunger that drives a person to eat leftover dinners for breakfast.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jan 13 '16 at 19:01
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    A mix up of metaphors? A person who is a "cold fish" is someone who is unemotional, cold-hearted, unfeeling and unfriendly.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jan 13 '16 at 19:17
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    @Josh61 I've never heard it used that way, but I can recall plenty of defenses of cold pizza for breakfast the next morning, which would undercut the pejorative usage.
    – deadrat
    Jan 13 '16 at 19:39
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The majority of these usages are literal. If you had pizza, leftover from last night, you eat it cold in the morning for breakfast. It's not so much a metaphor as it is symbolic/representative of a unhealthy, undomesticated lifestyle. It means you're not eating a "real" breakfast, and you aren't even bothering to reheat the pizza. You're probably a hungover bachelor (or bachelorette).

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  • @GoDucks - I didn't say it was indicative of an unhealthy lifestyle, I said it was symbolic of one. Two very different statements. Jan 13 '16 at 21:45
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An Elephind newspaper database search for "cold pizza" yields 196 matches—193 from the United States and 3 from Australia. The vast majority of the results are from college newspapers, which makes sense because most mainstream, general-circulation daily newspapers later than the early 1930s are excluded from the search results (for copyright reasons). The decade-by-decade matches for "cold pizza" work out as follows:

1950–1959: 5 matches

1960–1969: 10 matches

1970–1979: 25 matches

1980–1985: 45 matches

1990–1999: 28 matches

2000–2009: 76 matches

2010–2019: 7 matches

Notably, not one of these matches involves the use of "cold pizza" in a figurative sense or as a description of a person or activity. In every case case, "cold pizza" refers to pizza that is cold—either because the initial fresh-from-the-oven heat has dissipated (a process that takes less than 20 minutes, owing to the thinness of the typical pizza) or because the pizza is leftover and has either been stored in a refrigerator or left on a plate for hours (usually overnight).

References to "cold pizza" have evolved in several ways. First, the earliest Elephind matches for "cold pizza" seem to involve the cooled-off-from-its-original-warmness sense of the term—and all appear in the context of criticism. The oldest match is from an advertisement for Sam's Pizza Kitchen in the [Champaign, Illinois] Daily Illini (November 9, 1956), which reads simply:

Cold Pizza is for the birds! All Pizza delivered hot!

The earliest instance of an article referring to "cold pizza" as a dining option consisting of one or more slices left over from a meal eaten hours or days earlier is from Erma Bombeck, "Call It Pillow Talk," in the San Bernardino [California] Sun (November 22, 1971):

Notes pinned to the pillow of a mother who has flu — by a well-meaning husband who has inherited the house and kids.

...

Dear Doris: Why in the name of all that is sane would you put soap chips in the flour cannister! If you have time, could you please come up with a likely spot for Chris' missing shoes? We've checked the clothes hamper, garage, back seat of car and wood box. Did you know the school has a ruling on bedroom slippers? There's some cold pizza for you in a napkin in the oven drawer. Late tonight, Driving 8 Girl Scouts to tour meat packing house!

The concept of "cold pizza" for breakfast debuts in Elephind's newspaper database results in Clare Brown, "Clare's Column: Stack Up a Hearty Breakfast," in the Clare [Michigan] Sentinel (September 18, 1974):

Nowhere does it say breakfast has to be toast and eggs or cereal and milk, although these are excellent breakfasts, if these things turn kids off, try a hamburger deluxe, a bowl of soup, or a slice of cold pizza and milk. They fit into the good breakfast criteria just as well as our sterotyped concepts of what makes a breakfast.

The earliest match for "cold pizza [for breakfast]" as a representative lifestyle dietary choice for single men, college students, indie band members, computer geeks, etc., appears in "Magnetism plus equals Starsky & Hutch," in The Australian Women's Weekly (September 15, 1976):

The two of them seem to be the toughest and fittest plain-clothes detective commandos yet to grace TV's Los Angeles police force.

Maybe their breakfast helps them. In a recent episode Starsky had a breakfast of cold pizza and root beer (a rich, dark-brown soft drink).

From these origins, "cold pizza" has emerged as a cultural marker in roughly the same vague yet tendentious way that "brie and chablis" did (briefly) in the 1980s. Here is a typical instance, from Cheri Monaghan, "Going Home: Those Visits with the Parents Who Remind You to Wake Up in the Morning and Give You Gifts of Dog Halt," in the [University Park, Pennsylvania] Daily Collegian (February 7, 1986):

Remember the joy of newfound freedom away from screaming siblings and prying parents; staying out all night, cutting classes for days on end, playing the stereo at decibel levels only dreamed of when still at home, eating cold pizza and Pepsi for breakfast and doing a dozen other things our parents were likely to drop dead if aware of? At last we were really living!

And from Kevin Padrez, "It's OK, He's Just a College Student," in the Stanford [California] Daily (June 15, 2007):

After graduation I don't expect my lifestyle to change very much. I'm still going to eat cold pizza for breakfast and buy my formal wear at Savers. The only difference is I will now be considered a dead-beat twenty-something, not a typical college student.


Conclusion

In the United States, at least, "cold pizza" has not emerged as a widely recognized figurative expression. Instead, its force is as a shorthand representation of a particular (usually college-centered) dietary lifestyle. That the term retains this status almost half a century after its "it's what's for breakfast" debut is a testament to the somewhat surprising continuity of post-high-school eating habits, as channeled by young adults and as attributed to them by older ones.

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My girlfriend and I often use this as an alternative way of saying "annoyed," based on the Noid commercials from Dominoes. For example, she'll say "I'm annoyed," and I say "Well, don't make my pizza cold." Or she'll say "my pizza's cold," and that means she's annoyed. It's kind of a light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek joke.

We have a similar thing with the phrase "go for it." Since it kind of sounds like "gopher it," I'll sometimes say "groundhog it" instead.

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    So this is more idiolect than a common saying?
    – Cascabel
    Jul 1 at 15:24
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It is a tasty meal, usually comprised of leftover pizza from the night before. However some people are known to deliberately order or cook too much pizza for consumption in one night and intentionally save some in the fridge for the next day.

As well one can argue that pizza (with or without beer) has all the major food groups. At least if you have tongue in cheek.

Last, some people I know develop a taste for cold (refrigerated) versions of other Italian-American foods, such as cold lasagna.

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  • Yes because as per this comment, I don't believe there's an established figurative usage, and I certainly deprecate this comment which led many to set you straight.
    – GoDucks
    Jan 25 '16 at 15:47
  • You've rolled back the edit, so I've deleted my comment.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jan 25 '16 at 21:19

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