Balls on a shad-bellied priest

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TomPullings

Senior Member
Georgian
"There's a deal of timber around the bridge and I guess if you keep your boys hidden then the sons of bitch Yankees won't know you're there. Of course we may all end up being about as much use as a pair of balls on a shad-bellied priest, but on the other hand we may not."

Bernard Cornwell, Nathaniel Starback Saga, THe Rebel

I dont get exactly the meaning of shad-bellied. If somone can help me.
 
  • owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    A "shad" is a type of fish: Shad * I suppose this means that the priest's belly looks like that of a shad. It might be some weird reference to the old Catholic custom of eating fish instead of meat on Fridays.

    *Wikipedia: Shad.
     

    TomPullings

    Senior Member
    Georgian
    i guess its gonna be flat belly, but what < deletion > are doing here balls?
     
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    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    "As useless as balls on a priest" is an old cliché, Tom. Priests are supposed to be celibate, so their testicles are not "useful" as they would be to somebody who was sexually active.
     

    Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    As to shad-bellied, this is from Wordnik:
    from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

    • Having little abdominal protuberance: as, a shad-bellied person.
    • Sloping away gradually in front; cutaway: as, a shad-bellied coat.
    It would be the first of these, of course, in the quoted context.


    The word is obsolete (no longer used); it doesn't appear in contemporary dictionaries.
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    Thanks for the research, Parla. So the priest is being insulted for being paunchy rather than for eating fish. :)
     

    Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    No, Owlman. "Having little abdominal protuberance" means not having much of it. Tom (post #3) is correct: it's flat-bellied.
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    My mistake. I misread the answer as "Having a little abdominal protuberance."

    "Shad-bellied" seems odd for "skinny". I suppose it's closer to "scrawny".
     

    TomPullings

    Senior Member
    Georgian
    thanks guys, but Cornwell also uses this word as insulting. for example

    Faulconer doesn't have men, boy, he has white-livered fairies. Milksops. Mudsills. Black-assed, shad-bellied, shit-faced, pussy-hearted trash. And you're one of that scum, are you?"

    what can this mean in this particular case, i guess its not thin.
     

    Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    "Faulconer doesn't have men, boy, he has white-livered fairies. Milksops. Mudsills. Black-assed, shad-bellied, shit-faced, pussy-hearted trash. And you're one of that scum, are you?"

    What can this mean in this particular case? I guess it's not thin.
    You don't give the source, but I can only assume that the speaker viewed those in Faulconer's group (servants? soldiers?) as, among other things, scrawny (which may have suggested weak).

    Edit: Oops! You did give the source; I didn't realize, when I wrote the above, that you were referring to the work you'd mentioned in post #1.
     
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    ain'ttranslationfun?

    Senior Member
    US English
    A couple of other similar, admittedly vulgar [possibly verging on obscene] expressions which I'd equate with "as useful as pair of balls on a shad-bellied priest" : "As useful[/useless] as tits on a boar"; "... as a spare prick at a wedding". In other words, I don't think you need to worry too much about "shad-bellied' in your OP. In your post #8, it would seem that Cornwell uses "shad-bellied" to mean "gutless" (cowardly).
     
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