lick your weight in frog spawn

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Q-cumber

Senior Member
Hello!

I'm reading the 'Playback' novel by Raymond Chandler. Here below is the quote from the book I need some help with:
"Me and you could get along," Goble said indifferently, "if you had any brains."

"And if you had any manners and were six inches taller and had a different face and another name and didn't act as if you thought you could lick your weight in frog spawn. "
I don't get the part in bold well. Could you kindly reword it for me?
 
  • Q-cumber

    Senior Member
    It is just a phrase to mean that Goble acts arrogantly. It doesn't really mean anything and I've never heard it used before, but the format is very familiar.
    Hi bluegiraffe,

    Thanks for your prompt response. So, you don't understand the 'frog spawn' part either, do you? The general meaning of the phrase is pretty clear to me, but I'd like to get the details, so to speak..
     
    Last edited:

    bluegiraffe

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Well literally it means that he can lick the same weight in frog spawn as he is. So if he weighs 12 stone, he can lick 12 stone of frog spawn. But there is no real meaning to that!
     

    bibliolept

    Senior Member
    AE, Español
    I'm not certain what "frog spawn" is intended to communicate, but "lick" would mean to defeat in a combat. The "your weight in" construction is not uncommon to refer to fighting; I think the speaker is accusing the character of being pugnacious and arrogant.
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    Wouldn't "frog spawn" be tadpoles? These are very innocuous creatures, and would be especially ineffective in a fight, even if there were enough of them to equal Goble in weight.

    The statement is not flattering to Goble.

    Chandler uses a mixture of street language and colorful variations on street idiom that he makes up himself.
     

    bibliolept

    Senior Member
    AE, Español
    Yes, I'd read "frog spawn" as tadpoles. But I read the whole phrase as meaning "you act as if you're very tough," which doesn't directly connect with "you can beat up a lot of tadpoles" to me. I suppose that making that seem like an accomplishment—or just the oddness of the image—adds to the mockery.
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    Sorry to disappoint those who think that frog spawn is tadpoles. Female frogs lay eggs,
    lots of them. Usually these are laid in water. Then her mate spews sperm over the eggs to fertilize them. Whether you prefer to think of frog spawn as the eggs, the sperm, or all of it together, the tadpoles don't develop for a while.

    The gist of the insult is that Goble is told he acts as if he (or she?) were strong enough to best a pile of gelatinous stuff in battle.
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    Yup, so it is.

    The "swarming brood; numerous progeny" definition would apply only if we weren't talking about amphibians (Dictionary.com). I didn't know about that more specific meaning.
     
    A standard expression describing toughness is "able to lick his weight in wildcats" -- that is, if the man weighs 200 pounds, he is able to face a number of ferocious wildcats who together weight 200 pounds and yet still defeat them. By turning the usual "wildcats" (or "alligators", or something else equally fierce) into the completely harmless "frogspawn" turns the description from admiration into mockery, as cuchu notes.
     
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