Bee's Knees

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  • MrJamSandwich

    Senior Member
    English, UK
    The bee's knees: excellent, top notch etc.

    The origin is quite unclear, but some speculate that it comes from the fact that the bee's pollen baskets are located on the midsection of its legs - so the "bee's knees" refers to a place where all the polleny goodness is collected.
     

    stranger in your midst

    Senior Member
    English / Scotland
    'The bee's knees' is a colloquial expression connoting esteem, perhaps comparable to the modern 'that's cool', or 'the dog's bollocks'. I've no idea where it came from, and Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase & Fable is silent. However, I guess it might represent a corruption of the usual pronunciation of 'business', since describing something as 'the business' means almost exactly the same.
     

    MrJamSandwich

    Senior Member
    English, UK
    I guess it might represent a corruption of the usual pronunciation of 'business', since describing something as 'the business' means almost exactly the same.
    I hadn't noticed that myself, but it's a perfectly plausible explaination - though to be sure, one would have to find out which expression came into use first. Not that I'm particularly bothered, in fact I much prefer the idea of an Italian restaurateur describing his pizzas as "ze beezneez" to a baffled customer and accidentally coining a new English idiom... perhaps!
     

    stranger in your midst

    Senior Member
    English / Scotland
    'Best thing since sliced bread' is another favourite English idiom of mine. 'It's the bee's knees, the best thing since sliced bread !'. That kind of language must leave some foreigners utterly baffled.
     

    Dimcl

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    Does anyone know where I can find the meaning and origin of the saying "The bee's knees"? Thanks.
    Mae
    This is from the "Alt.Useage.English FAQ":

    A bee's "corbiculae", or pollen-baskets, are located on its
    tibiae (midsegments of its legs). The phrase "the bee's knees",
    meaning "the height of excellence", became popular in the U.S. in
    the 1920s, along with "the cat's whiskers" (possibly from the use
    of these in radio crystal sets), "the cat's pajamas" (pyjamas were
    still new enough to be daring), and similar phrases which made less
    sense and didn't endure: "the eel's ankle", "the elephant's
    instep", "the snake's hip". Stories in circulation about the
    phrase's origin include: "b's and e's", short for "be-alls and
    end-alls"; and a corruption of "business".
     

    Porteño

    Member Emeritus
    British English
    The Longman Idioms Dictionary defines 'bee's knees' as being used to say that someone or something is very good, attractive, etc. However, it does not give any clue to the origin of the expression.
     

    stranger in your midst

    Senior Member
    English / Scotland
    I would say it is still quite common in BE. Certainly, the expression causes no difficulty in understanding, albeit it does have a quaint 'old world' charm to it, much like 'the cat's pyjamas' or 'cool customer'.
     
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