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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".

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    Could this be a play on idioms.thefreedictionary.com/… ? – michael.hor257k Oct 11 '16 at 20:02
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    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 '16 at 22:43
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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.

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