"They weren't very good on the trapeze and their acquaintance with animals was only at the dinner table"

What does "their acquaintance with animals was only at the dinner table" mean here? Also,is it an idiom or what?

(I have attached the paragraph from which the sentence is taken). Thanks to all! .
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page extract showing highlighted quote

  • 4
    It clearly refers to their total inexperience as tamer or trainer of animals. At the dinner table probably means that they know animals only as food.
    – user 66974
    Feb 11, 2018 at 8:07
  • Really really thanks user5768790! You gave a very simple and easily understandable explanation :) Feb 14, 2018 at 8:21

1 Answer 1


It is pulling apart the metaphorical description as an international circus by pretending it means a literal circus, with trapeze artists and animal tamers.

Their acquaintance with animals was only at the dinner table is a hyperbolic way of saying they are not animal tamers, and in fact know animals only in the form of the meat that comes from them.

  • Thanks for the beautiful answer Colin! But can you tell me one more thing, are they being called a "international circus" as a sarcastic comment or what? :) Feb 14, 2018 at 7:50
  • 1
    It's hard to tell, but I read it as approving, not sarcastic, @RohitShekhawat
    – Colin Fine
    Feb 14, 2018 at 10:39

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