Like smell on skunk

Parla

Member Emeritus
English - US
I have just heard an American expression that's new to me.

Although I haven't used it (and it's not used very much in the part of the US where I live), I had previously heard the expression "like white on bread" to mean extremely close.

Today, on a news broadcast, I heard for the first time another expression that clearly means the same thing.

An oil pipeline beneath the waters of the Yellowstone River in the state of Montana has burst, filling the river with oil. At the same time, the river (like many western rivers this summer) is rising, so both water and oil are spilling over the river banks.

The oil company is working to clean up the river and the surrounding land, and today the governor of Montana visited the area, saying that the state will make sure that the company cleans up properly. He added, "I'll personally be on this like smell on skunk."

I assume this is a common expression in that part of the country.
 
  • owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    Hello, Parla. I'm not from Montana, but I don't live far away. I hear westerners, especially rural ones, use this phrase every now and then. It seems to be a slightly cleaned-up version of "like flies on shit", one that's earthy yet still fit to use in polite company. :)
     
    Last edited:

    pops91710

    Senior Member
    English, AE
    Hello, Parla. I'm not from Montana, but I don't live far away. I hear westerners, especially rural ones, use this phrase every now and then. It seems to be a slightly cleaned-up version of "like flies on shit", one that's earthy yet still fit to use in polite company. :)
    Or "like stink on shit". (Inseparable, like a skunk and its smell are).
     

    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    I'm not going to try to change earthy expressions, but I'd be more amused -- and the line would have more rhythm -- with an article: like stink/smell on a skunk.
     

    Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    Thanks for your comments; I was curious to learn if fellow Americans out west had heard this one. It's curious that there's a major difference among the versions. "Like white on bread", "like smell on skunk", and "like stink on shit" all name a characteristic of the object of "on". But one you mentioned, "like flies on shit", is different: flies are not a part, or a characteristic, of shit but are drawn to it. Actually, that last one would make more sense as a figure of speech for the governor, who is not part of the situation but plans to stay very close to it.
     

    abenr

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    Thanks for your comments; I was curious to learn if fellow Americans out west had heard this one. It's curious that there's a major difference among the versions. "Like white on bread", "like smell on skunk", and "like stink on shit" all name a characteristic of the object of "on". But one you mentioned, "like flies on shit", is different: flies are not a part, or a characteristic, of shit but are drawn to it. Actually, that last one would make more sense as a figure of speech for the governor, who is not part of the situation but plans to stay very close to it.
    I imagine I'm Southwestern rather than Western, but I've never heard any of these expressions. I have heard "like white on rice," which I much prefer to white on bread.
     

    pops91710

    Senior Member
    English, AE
    I imagine I'm Southwestern rather than Western, but I've never heard any of these expressions. I have heard "like white on rice," which I much prefer to white on bread.
    I learned my contribution in the military. Not sure if it was from another fellow westerner. I don't talk like that. Just heard it all the time.
     

    Hau Ruck

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Hello, Parla. I'm not from Montana, but I don't live far away. I hear westerners, especially rural ones, use this phrase every now and then. It seems to be a slightly cleaned-up version of "like flies on shit", one that's earthy yet still fit to use in polite company. :)

    Exactly what I was thinking. I hear it often as "stink on s**t". And I also believe that the speaker just "cleaned up" their language for the sake of being proper for broadcasting :)
     

    pops91710

    Senior Member
    English, AE
    Exactly what I was thinking. I hear it often as "stink on s**t". And I also believe that the speaker just "cleaned up" their language for the sake of being proper for broadcasting :)
    I agree. Flies on sh** means something else, sort of like "like a duck on a june bug", (their favorite whatever). He was all over her like flies on....(well, you know). It sounds bad, but it makes the point, albeit crudely and not at all eloquently. (YUCK!)
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    The "stink" from skunks is long lasting and impossible to remove. I will wear off, but there is little you can do to really neutralize it.

    For that reason I believe the writer (or speaker) is using the phrase. He will remain on the project, his participation will be widely noticed, and nothing will sway him from his goal.

    His simile is faulty. Skunks don't smell. They emit from their musk gland a secretion that does smell. He should have said, "Like stink from a skunk."

    I think this carries more meaning that "stink from shit" or "white on white bread".

    As far as I know it is not a fixed phrase. It is colorful and gets across a point succinctly. So I like it.
     
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