get as tight as a fat lady's girdle

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Sentence: One time in all thoese years, he wrapped himself around a can of white shellac and got as tight as a fat lady's girdle.

Context: He stole pearls, and he didn't say where he hid them except just one time. While he was in jail, he told his cell mate where the pearls were.

I don't understand the above sentence. Did the irony used in the sentence to emphasize that he made a mistake (tell where the pearls were) just one time ?
  • entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    It's a pun on the ordinary meaning of 'tight' (how a fat lady's girdle would be) and the slang 'tight' meaning "drunk". He got very drunk on shellac, and therefore wasn't in control of what he said.


    English - England
    This is a rather complex simile:

    he wrapped himself around a can of white shellac = He drank a whole can of white shellac (a substitute for alcohol in prison)

    and got as tight as = and became as drunk as. (tight also means - as you will know - so closely fitting that it compresses whatever it surrounds - "These shoes are very tight.")

    a fat lady's girdle. -> a girdles is an elasticated undergarment used by women who are overweight to make them appear slim. A fat lady's girdle is so tight it will compress her body.)

    The double meaning of "tight" allows this simile to work well.
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