as innocent as a cabbage?

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Maggiemoocn

Senior Member
Chinese
I find this sentence in an article the Habit of Art by Paris Review: the children’s mother, whose face, “as broad and innocent as a cabbage,” I just wonder what "as innocent as a cabbage" mean. Why could a cabbage be innocent?

Any thoughts? Thanks.
 
  • cyberpedant

    Senior Member
    English USA, Northeast, NYC
    Is this perhaps a translation of an article originally written in French? "Mon petit chou," literally "my little cabbage" is a common term of affection applied to children. But in any case, how could a cabbage be guilty of anything?
     

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    You're right, Maggiemoocn, it might just as easily have been "innocent as a primrose" or "innocent as a dumpling". But probably not "innocent as a weasel" or "innocent as a thistle".
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    You're right, Maggiemoocn, it might just as easily have been "innocent as a primrose" or "innocent as a dumpling". But probably not "innocent as a weasel" or "innocent as a thistle".
    I'm not entirely sure this is so.

    There is a saying, "I'm not a green as I'm cabbage looking." = I am not as gullible as I might appear to you to be. Cabbage is also used to describe someone in a vegetative state. Taking "innocent" in its meaning of "artlessness/unsuspecting", I guess there are enough pointers to make "cabbage" a good choice.
     

    Maggiemoocn

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    I'm not entirely sure this is so.

    There is a saying, "I'm not a green as I'm cabbage looking." = I am not as gullible as I might appear to you to be. Cabbage is also used to describe someone in a vegetative state. Taking "innocent" in its meaning of "artlessness/unsuspecting", I guess there are enough pointers to make "cabbage" a good choice.
    It makes a lot of sense to me, thanks a lot, Paul.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Hello Maggie,

    The Paris Review is an American literary magazine and this is from an article about the writer Flannery O'Connor.

    Bailey in “A Good Man Is Hard to Find,” with his bald head and Hawaiian shirt, and the children’s mother, whose face, “as broad and innocent as a cabbage,” is tied off with a green scarf that has “two points on the top like rabbit’s ears”—all have the appearance and substance of animated characters in a cartoon script for 1950s suburbia, complete with a couple of bratty comic-book-reading kids in the backseat of the car.


    You may not need telling these things but we probably do.

    The quote is being used in the sentence to suggest that Miss O'Connor was trying to make her characters in this story seem like figures in an animated cartoon. She was, after all, a cartoonist as well as a writer.

    It might also be worth mentioning that serious writers are often looking for striking images, to avoid cliché, and to find new striking ways of communicating ideas. Here Miss O'Connor seems to be striving for a particular literary effect. Her simile should not be examined in isolation, but considered in its context - the story, not the article, which is about Miss O'Connor's writing in general.

    Cabbages are round and featureless, and not obviously guilty of anything (as Keith points out). Miss O'Connor knew about cabbages.

    I don't think this has anything at all to do with French. Miss O'Connor suffered from systemic lupus erythematosus and lived most of her life on her family's farm in Georgia. Her writing is deeply American, of the South. I don't think she ever left America.
     
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