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Keep your hands where we can see em, ready to grab life by the bread basket. (Source: https://www.amazon.com/Stanley-Classic-Trigger-Mug-Leak-Packable/dp/B08LFP8GRK)

According to dictionaries, a bread basket could mean a stomach or a a major cereal-producing region. But the meaning of this sentence is still unclear. Does this mean to ready to enjoy a life with rich food?

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  • It's not only meant as some pun on "bull by the horns," those words start off the piece and set up the contrast. Nov 11, 2020 at 13:30
  • A bread basket can also mean a basket for holding/serving bread. ^_^
    – Robusto
    Nov 11, 2020 at 14:47
  • I like W. C. Fields's deliberate mangling: "There comes a time in the affairs of man when he must take the bull by the tail and face the situation."
    – Robusto
    Nov 11, 2020 at 14:50
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    I’m voting to close this question because it's a non-standard usage, a novel mixed metaphor that is better not promulgated. Nov 11, 2020 at 14:57

2 Answers 2

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It's a "mangled metaphor mash-up"1. The writer mistakenly thinks "bread-basket" is a euphemism for genitals, and what he really wanted to say was...

ready to grab life by the balls (dozens if not hundreds of hits in Google Books)

enter image description here

...where I think it's significant that the first (only?) instance of the "mangled" version reported by Google for the Internet at large is in fact OP's example as cited here. It has no currency.


1 Here's a website called mashupamericans mentioning to grab the bull by the balls (where the idiomatic standard for that one is ...by the horns, akin to grasping the nettle firmly).

But I think it's worth saying that the bull/balls version is actually quite common - it's usually a deliberately facetious mash-up which both speaker and audience would recognise as "playing with language"). I don't think we can say that about OP's example, which looks like just a straightforward mistake.

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Ah, what a tangled web we weave, when at first we write ad copy.

Agreeing with @FumbleFingers assessment of a "mangled metaphor mash-up," grab by the bread basket comes from grab by the balls. One is metaphorically grabbing a vigorous and virile beast by its testicles. It will not give up without a fight. The bread basket is a euphemism for testicles.

An older metaphor is to take the bull by the horns:

to deal with a difficult situation in a very direct way: I took the bull by the horns and confronted him about his mistreatment of the workers.

(Cambridge)

Grabbing a bull by the horns will likely get you gored, as would grabbing a bull by the testicles. By implication, it takes a brave soul.

The ad copy invokes this directly: "Some people take the bull by the horns with one hand tied behind their back." This places the would-be brave soul, who's looking to replace his thermos, in the boots of the Marlboro man.

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    I can't help thinking there's a difference in allusion/emphasis between by the horns (which primarily protects the would-be matador, without seriously distressing the bull) and by the balls (or ...the short and curlies, with a nod in the direction of propriety & euphemism). The latter is much more about handling the "opponent" roughly, decisively, authoritatively. It's usually evidence of bravery to grasp a metaphoric bull (or nettle, grasped firmly), but it's primarily just a demonstration of power to grab your (real/metaphoric) opponent by the balls. Nov 11, 2020 at 14:17

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