The Goldendale Sentinel - Headlines & History since 1879

By Amy Reeves
For the Sentinel 

Where'd that come from? Finer than a frog's hair

 


There are times in life were we, as humans, use expressions to describe our actions or feelings while referring to animals: sicker than a dog, eating like a pig, busy like a bee, sweating like a dog, squirrely. My mom has been saying she is as ‘fine as frog’s hair’ for years and I assumed that because she loves frogs, it was just something she made up. (Mom, in the winter you can say you are finer than frog’s fur—that is the warmer, winter version of this saying!) I was up at the hospital the other night visiting my husband; I started talking with one of the staff about the newspaper and “Where’d that come from.” I told him I had not a clue as to what I was going to write about this week due to being overwhelmed with life and wanted to know if he had a word or saying that he would like to know where it came from. He said that some of the older patients sometimes used the phrase ‘finer than a frog’s hair’ and thought it was funny. To my surprise, this is a very old saying and not something my mom made up. (Sorry Mom) This is an American simile and dates back to the mid-nineteenth century and is used to relate that you are feeling excellent.

C. Davis's Diary of 1865 has this entry:

"I have a better flow of spirits this morning, and, in fact, feel as fine as frog's hair, as Potso used to say."

There is a lesser-known variant from the southern states - 'as slippery as frog hair'. This is used to denote money, especially if it was newly acquired; for example, from Time, February 1974:

"Disturbingly, many of the plaque owners were contractors or architects who stood to benefit from making political contributions - frog hair, as such funds are known... because, as old Sooners [Settlers who jumped the gun and arrived too soon to a claim] say, new money feels 'as slippery as frog's hair'."

Frogs do not really have hair and the ironic reference in this saying is intended to accentuate the effect of being extremely fine with how you are feeling. Even though this is an American phrase, the British have come up with some similar ones that, personally, I found entertaining and equally effective with being descriptive of a situation or thing: “as rare as rocking-horse dung,” that is, nonexistent yet funny nonetheless; and “as small as the hairs on a gnat's backside,” which to my understanding is pretty small indeed. As I was doing research this week, I found funnier sayings that should only be used while at a BBQ with a bunch of rednecks. (I love this job!)

My mom spent almost six months in the hospital last year. When they released her, she did the typical red-head, Norwegian thing and got back to living with enthusiasm and gusto. She called me a few weeks back, very excited because she had just finished kayaking on a lake, breaking the ice with her paddles. I asked her how she was feeling. She said “Finer than a frog’s hair, thank you.” If I had to guess, I would say she was doing pretty darn excellent!

 

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