0

I was reading Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis and came across a quote I cannot understand:

But they all felt that it was rather in bad taste for Orville Jones — and he not recognized as one of the wits of the occasion anyway — to say, "In fact, the whole thing about prohibition is this: it isn't the initial cost, it's the humidity."

I think it's meant to be funny but I just don't get "it isn't the initial cost, it's the humidity".

3
  • 1
    Could this be a play on idioms.thefreedictionary.com/… ? Oct 11, 2016 at 20:02
  • 1
    It's an intentional (and intended to be humorous—you're right about that) malaphor. I once had a professor who was fond of these; one of his favorites was you've buttered your bread, now you have to lie in it (you've buttered your bread, now you have to eat it + you've made your bed, now you have to lie in it). I believe it was felt to be in bad taste because it was funny, so Jones was showing the other men up (they were all trying, somewhat inexpertly, to impress women).
    – 1006a
    Oct 11, 2016 at 22:43

1 Answer 1

3

It's a blend of two different adages:

It isn't the initial cost, it's the upkeep.

and

It isn't the heat, it's the humidity.

I don't find any meaning beyond that, so it doesn't really mean anything, as far as I can see.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.