Brain like a sieve

3Lulu3

Senior Member
English - Canada & Portuguese
"the casual bearer of a Sainsbury's carrier may be declaring not a brain like a sieve, but a certain superiority to the Joneses."

What does "brain like a sieve" mean in this context? Could it be the brain acting as a filter/strainer?
 
  • ChowingtonPlush

    Member
    ENGLISH - AUSTRALIA
    My piano teacher always tells me I have a brain like a sieve, she says it to me when I tell her that I've forgotten something. I take it to mean 'to be very forgetful/hopeless at remembering things'. Sorry if that doesn't help but the context is too bizarre to sus anything out of it. Is this from a poem? Sophisticated literature? A medical journal?
     

    bluegiraffe

    Senior Member
    English - England
    It doesn't make sense at all in this sentence!! Where did you find this?

    To have a brain like a sieve means you forget things easily. You can also use it when you have just forgotten something, it's a little dramatic.

    "I'm sorry, could you tell me your name again? I've got a brain like a sieve!"
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    The casual bearer of a Sainsbury's carrier may be declaring not a brain like a sieve, but a certain superiority to the Joneses.

    The bearer of a Sainsbury's carrier has accidentally or deliberately not brought a long-life re-usable bag to carry his shopping.
    If accidentally, he has a brain like a sieve.
    If deliberately, he is making some kind of point.
    The sentence suggests that he is making some kind of a point, though how this could indicate superiority to the Joneses I'm not sure.
     

    3Lulu3

    Senior Member
    English - Canada & Portuguese
    I am reading an article that has an underlying theme of amnesia, something that I only fully understood after being provided with this expression's meaning, thus I was unable to provide a clear context as I was unsure of it myself.

    Thank you for your help.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Here's Lulu's context: click.

    The paragraph in which her quote appears is this:

    In terms of advertising it is no less effective to carry a Safeway shopping bag than it would be to wear a Safeway T-shirt. Even the generation who are happy to wear clothes that are essentially adverts for their creators have rejected attempts to make them advertise grocers. The casual wearer of a Sainsbury's T-shirt would immediately be understood to be making a subversively ironic statement about advertising, yet in the UK, the casual bearer of a Sainsbury's carrier may be declaring not a brain like a sieve, but a certain superiority to the Joneses.

    I'm still puzzled though - it seems as if something has gone wrong with the editing. It would surely make more sense if the last sentence of the paragraph read the casual bearer of a Sainsbury's carrier may be declaring not a certain superiority to the Joneses but a brain like a sieve.

    :confused:
     

    pickarooney

    Senior Member
    English (Ireland)
    I read it that Sainsbury's was a kind of upmarket shop and that the person carrying one of their bags was advertising the fact that he didn't shop with the plebs in Lidl. Although I don't think Sainsbury's is that posh, is it?

    On the other question, I would consider a brain like a sieve to be a most useful organ - if I had one no doubt all the pertinent information I've accumulated would be retained and easily accessible and the texts and music of the works of Richard Astley would long since be drained away.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    There is no way on Earth that the article has anything to do with Genevieve Jones, simply because ordinary bods like me know where Sainsbury's is, but wouldn't know what, where, who or how Genevieve Jones is, does etc.

    The author of the piece is, in common parlance, a bit of a tit. The reference to Jones comes from "keeping up with the Jones's" ie, being at least as good as your neighbours but preferably superior to them. The thesis is that we are forgetful, so forget our plastic bags. Then the author reverses the thesis for a single paragraph to suggest that carrying a Sainsbury's bag is not a sign of forgetfulness as people might think, but a sign of superiority to the Jones's. That is, that the person is carrying it deliberately as a badge of status.

    There are two reason why I describe the author as a tit:

    Firstly for losing his way in his own thesis (which is that we forget plastic bags) by suggesting that carrying a carrier bag could be a sign of having a mind like a sieve.

    Secondly, for believing that a Sainsbury's carrier bag is a sign of any form of superiority. The nobs go to Waitrose, not Sainsbury's, and those who are careful with their money go to Lidl.

    QED
     
    Last edited:

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Erm...

    Yes, that's why I think something has gone awry with the editing...:D
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    Erm...

    Yes, that's why I think something has gone awry with the editing...:D
    But even if you edit it as you suggested, the writer is still linking carrying the bag with forgetfulness, which is a reversal of his thesis. I think he may have quite large holes in his own sieve - more of a colander.
     

    nontan

    Member
    Japanese
    If the Joneses refers to judgment of superiority or inferiority to the neighbor, would it be possible to think of the following way?

    The first sentence refers;
    to the advertisement on the shopping bags vs T Shirts
    Safeway is mentioned as a reference.

    Second says;
    Many people do wear T-shirts which advertise thoughts or even ad of certain goods and/or shops created by an artist but do not put on that of grocery stores even if printing is designed by the same.

    Third says:
    Sainsbury itself confirms this by selling fair-trade mark of T-Shirts as the ad of its shop may not be supported by anybody.

    People who carry Sainsbury’s shopping bags do not forget about that they are not a supporter putting on the ad nor carrying that of Sainsbury. But they know it is far better to carry the bags of the neighbor such as 'the shop named earlier'.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    Nontan.

    I think you are trying to read too much into a fairly foolish paragraph. Sainsbury's does not sell T-shirts carrying their logo. Nor do any of the other grocery chains in the UK. They do have shirts carrying a logo for their staff to wear. Nobody seeing a T-shirt with the Sainsbury's logo on it would think that it was a subversively ironic statement on advertising; they would think the person wearing it worked at Sainsbury's. People carrying Sainsbury's bags:

    1. Have just been shopping in Sainsbury's, or

    2. Are on their way to Sainsbury's to shop and will get a penny off the bill for every bag that they re-use, or

    3. Have picked up an empty Sainsbury's bag that is in their house to pop round to the local shop to buy a couple of items, or

    4. Are taking unwanted household items to the charity shop, or

    5. Like me, they use them as bin liners and are taking the rubbish out to the dustbin.

    None of them, in any way, think that a Sainsbury's bag is any form of status symbol.

    I guess we are developing serious thread drift.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    I was totally bewildered by the text until I read the whole document. Thanks Ms. Loob


    Plastic bags were created as a result of human forgetfulness to take a re-usable (e.g. cotton or canvas etc.) bag when we go shopping, so we have to bring* our groceries home in one of the (plastic) bags the store provides. Thus, one person carrying such a bag may be considered to be forgetful (they left their re-usable bag at home) and thus has a sieve in their head. Another person, however, may be feeling that if they can afford to shop at Sainsbury's (i.e. feel it IS an upmarket, or posh , place to shop) then showing that to the world is a badge of superiority. (Possibly implied is that people who feel that way - particularly using Sainsbury's as their medallion - are quite likely to be the same demographic that feels an urge to show superiority to the Joneses. These two possibilities are contrasted in the sentence in the first post.

    Also, I thought my brain might be going mushy, but "brain like a sieve" sounded a little odd to me. While not any kind of weighty measure, G**gle tells me that "memory like a sieve" outnumbers "brain like a sieve" by almost 3 to 1. Even in the .UK domain it's still over 2:1.


    *I'm at home as I write this :D
     

    word_up

    Senior Member
    Hello,

    I, in my native language, have also encountered the exact synonym of "brain like a sieve". It logically follows that it refers to forgetting.

    Nonetheless, I somehow associate "brain like a sieve" also with a derogatory term for intelligence in general. Don't ask me why, cause I just suppose that I heard it many times in a context which supported this understanding.

    And what I understood from this is that Sainsbury's is somehow better than shops common / medium-intelligence people visit. At least this is how in writer's opinion it is in the UK...

    Joneses may denote petty bourgeoisie, common people, generally not very bright and not so well educated.

    Is this understanding far-fetched? Maybe, after all it incorporates two idioms I may not fully understand.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    I hope the moderators will permit me some more thread drift.

    I have to make a partial retraction of my previous comment about the writer. I may have caused some readers to question their own understanding. I certainly misunderstood his words, but now I understand why. I have thought again about the article and the sentence in question. The trouble with the sentence is that you need to have a number of assumptions in mind to support the idea that carrying a plastic bag implies forgetfulness. Just to save referring back to it

    "the casual bearer of a Sainsbury's carrier may be declaring not a brain like a sieve, but a certain superiority to the Joneses."

    The author's basic thesis as understood by JulianStuart is, for UK, invalid. Plastic bags were introduced not because of forgetfulness, but because food supermarkets introduced bulk shopping. People had only one or two shopping bags, so needed extra bags when shopping in bulk. The paper sacks of American supermarkets never caught on here, possibly because we were less able to drive from door to door.

    Looking again at the sentence

    context: a dissertation on wastefulness
    thesis: people use plastic bags because they forget their reusable bags
    deduction: people carrying plastic bags are forgetful ie they have a brain like a sieve.
    secondary observation: People who carry Sainsbury's bags are not forgetful; they merely think they are better than everybody else.

    The deduction relies on the plastic bags being previously unused and being full of shopping, and also relies on the contents having been bought in the supermarket that supplied the bag. This contradicts the first phrase of the sentence - the casual bearer - since the bearer of a new, loaded carrier bag supplied by the supermarket is not a casual bearer but is a purposeful bearer. A casual bearer must be one who is carrying the bag for a purpose other than that for which it was originally intended. Casual carriage of a plastic bag thus indicates an absence of forgetfulness - the person is re-using it.

    It is conceivable that some people think that a Sainsbury's carrier bag implies some form of superiority. I have carried out an uncontrolled observational study and I can state with confidence that the average degree of obesity of customers entering Sainsbury's is appreciably less than that of customers entering Tesco, so there may be some support for the suggestion that Sainsbury's* customers may be in some ways superior to Tesco's. Thus he could be correct in suggesting that the CASUAL carriage of a Sainsbury's bag may indicate a perception of superiority, but is wrong to suggest that CASUAL carriage could be a sign of having a brain like a sieve. (phew, almost back on thread)

    I do not withdraw my comment that the author is a tit.

    *I suppose that should be Sainsbury's's :D
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    Joneses may denote petty bourgeoisie, common people, generally not very bright and not so well educated.
    Keeping up with the Joneses is, as I mentioned earlier*, a British idiom that means to maintain a social standing that is at least as good as your neighbours, but preferably slightly better. Your interpretation is not valid, although the activity of keeping up with the Joneses is one that is perhaps most characteristic of the so-called middle classes.


    *my apologies for the greengrocer's apostrophes in that posting
     

    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    I must admit to not reading every word of this thread -- still, over 60% -- but I would like to offer my first reaction: The carrier of a Sainburys (or any other store's) reusable bag may not be saying that he's so brain-dead (and style-unconscious) as to be advertising a supermarket but, instead, showing his superior to the Joneses who are so still so eco-unfriendly as to require plastic bags every time they buy groceries.

    So maybe it's eco-superiority. I certainly see it in Hong Kong where we have followed the British example of using plastic bags for years. Only in the last year has there been a public-awareness campaign against them, in addition to a plastic-bag levy. So most of us, including well-dressed businessmen, carry reusable bags with us now and tend to mentally sneer at the ignorant, earth-destroying yokels who ask for, and must pay for, plastic bags at the check-out counter.

    If any of this has been said and I missed it -- or if it's just plain wrong -- my apologies. But I am impervious to sneers because I carry very cool reusable bags from Muji. :)
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top