more modes than you can shake a fist at

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seeeker

Senior Member
  • S1m0n

    Senior Member
    English
    "More X than you can shake a fist at" is a weird expression that means "a lot of X". "Modes" means something like "ways to play the game."
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    The standard expression is more [whatever/s] than you can shake a stick at, not a fist! This makes sense, in that the American Heritage Dictionary describes “shake a stick at” as slang for “point out, designate, or name”.
     

    seeeker

    Senior Member
    The standard expression is more [whatever/s] than you can shake a stick at, not a fist! This makes sense, in that the American Heritage Dictionary describes “shake a stick at” as slang for “point out, designate, or name”.
    Thank you for your valuable input, lingobingo. This is an important observation.
     

    Cenzontle

    Senior Member
    English, U.S.
    The standard expression is more [whatever/s] than you can shake a stick at, not a fist!
    :thumbsup:
    the American Heritage Dictionary describes “shake a stick at” as slang for “point out, designate, or name”.
    :confused:
    I would qualify the AHD's definition:
    "shake a stick at" does not have meaning outside of the expression "more [something] than you can shake a stick at",
    meaning a great quantity of something.
    In other words, we cannot say "John shook a stick at some of the problems in the plan.":cross:
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Just to confirm that Cenzontle is right and the phrase is only used in the construction “more somethings than you can shake a stick at”, despite the dictionary definition I quoted in #4.

    Even the very earliest example cited in the OED uses that idiom:
    1818 Lancaster (Pa.) Jrnl., 5 Aug., 3/1 — We have in Lancaster as many Taverns as you can shake a stick at.


    And of course it’s perfectly valid to talk of shaking your fist at something or someone, but that’s not actually related to this idiom.
     

    srk

    Senior Member
    English - US
    And of course it’s perfectly valid to talk of shaking your fist at something or someone, but that’s not actually related to this idiom.
    If it is a play on the original, then "more modes than you can shake a fist at" is certainly related to the idiom. That's what I meant by "an intentional alteration." I could be wrong about the the reason for the wording, (and I could be wrong to think your comment has anything to do with mine.)
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    My little addendum was just meant as an acknowledgement that “shake a fist [at]” has its own literal meaning. But you may be right about its being meant as a pun in the OP example, which seems to be a review of a video game so is presumably by a professional writer. I’m sure that’s not normally the case, though, when someone uses fist instead of stick in the set phrase.
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Re the modern expression “more ………… than you can shake a stick at”, I’ve just found myself quoting (when mentioning the archaic expression “sticking full”), an OED entry citing something that looks like it may be the origin of it:

    STICK
    9. intransitive. to stick full of : to be riddled with (arrows, darts, etc.); (later more generally) to be full of. Cf. as full (also close, etc.) as one can stick at (now rare).
     
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