as they can stick now


Senior Member

These sentences are from "Under the Lion's Paw" by Hamlin Garland (from his 1891 collection Main-Travelled Roads).
(A farmer was approached by a stranger, who asked for accommodation for one night. The farmer agreed. Then the stranger and his family were led to his house. The farmer's wife cooked food for them. They ate. )

See the little rats! They're full as they can stick now, and they want to go to bed.

What does the part in bold type mean?

Thank you.
  • lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    That construction — [as] full as they can stick — would not be used in modern English. It means that the children have eaten as much as their stomachs can stand/bear/hold.

    There’s probably a connection with the archaic expression “sticking full”, which is related to this use recorded in the OED:

    9. intransitive. to stick full of : to be riddled with (arrows, darts, etc.); (later more generally) to be full of. Cf. as full (also close, etc.) as one can stick at (now rare).
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