missing attic insulation

jacdac

Senior Member
Lebanese
As he got closer you might have given up that idea in favor of one not quite so intellectual … maybe some sort of craftsman from the counterculture who had substituted kitsch for originality. And when he got very close, smiling and talking away a mile a minute, you realized for sure that a goodly chunk of Tom Cullen’s attic insulation was missing.
Source: The Stand by Stephen King
Context: Tom Cullen is feebleminded.

'a chunk of someone's atttic insulation was missing' seems to be an variation of ' queer in the attic', though I couldn't colloborate this assumption.

Is this expression and all the other-attic-expressions used in conversation or confined to literary work only?


Other words I looked up:
counterculture: group of people who do and believe things outside of what society considers normal or typical e.g. hippie
kitsh: worthless, trashy art
queer in the attic: mentally impaired, either due to stupidity or intoxication.

Thank you.
 
  • lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I think you've already answered what's meant by 'a chunk of Tom Cullen's attic insulation was missing' in your context line, i.e. he was feeble-minded. Stephen King's way of saying this may well have a vague connection with "queer in the attic" (which I had to look up!), but as usual he's put his own spin on it. Simple as that?

    I don't know of any similar idioms about an attic.
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    Without knowing much more about Tom Cullen, there are two possibilities:
    1.
    (i) If you do not insulate your attic, hot air will escape through the roof and your house will be cold.
    (ii) "Hot air" is an idiom for "empty rhetoric/words; bullshit; talk that exaggerates or invents facts."

    "... a goodly chunk of Tom Cullen’s attic insulation was missing." then refers to the fact that what he is saying, or what he had said was "hot air."

    2. As he is "feeble-minded" this seems more probable:
    (i) There are hundreds of saying that indicate that the person you are describing is not very intelligent. They follow the pattern of
    A few cards short of a deck.
    Only has one oar in the water.
    The light's on but no one's home.
    Not the brightest bulb in the box.
    A few screws short of a hardware store.
    Not the sharpest knife in the drawer.
    A few cards short of a deck.
    etc. (you can find more at Not too bright list)

    In this case, it suggests that Tom Cullen is not intelligent.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Just a note: in the U.S. at least, feeble-minded is more or less an old fashioned word that isn't used much.

    Google ngram shows its use had a huge peak around 1920 and then went down sharply after that, continuing up to today.

    Google Ngram Viewer
     

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    Just a note: in the U.S. at least, feeble-minded is more or less an old fashioned word that isn't used much.

    Google ngram shows its use had a huge peak around 1920 and then went down sharply after that, continuing up to today.

    Google Ngram Viewer
    What ARE we allowed to say to describe someone who is not very bright? It seems to hinge on the fact that even labelling someone this way is generally seen as socially unacceptable, so there is always a fight over what words might be acceptable to use.

    I must admit I smiled at this one from King. It's definitely not one to run with, but it does the job here in an original fashion.
     
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