Discussion in 'English Only' started by cheshire, Oct 30, 2006.
Where does the slang "it stinks on ice" come from?
I've never heard this particular expression, so you may need an AE speaker to respond fully.
But in the UK, the expression 'on ice' is used to mean 'to an extreme', or 'big time'. The sense is 'everything you'd expect - and more!' It derives from the rather naff practice of taking a successful stage show and presenting it as an 'Ice Extravanganza', with all the dances skated on an ice rink. Thus you get posters advertising 'Peter Pan - On Ice!!!'
So in BE we can say 'That's bigotry on ice', and mean 'That's not only bigotry, it goes way beyond it'. A similar (but more old-fashioned) expression here is 'with knobs on', meaning 'it's everything you'd expect of this quality, but even more excessively so'.
So 'it stinks on ice' to me would mean it really, really stinks....
Usually if something is on ice it is being preserved. If it is even stinking on ice, man, it must smell bad.
When I hear the phrase, I think of the (more or less) fresh fish displayed on crushed ice in the open-air market. Before buying one, you would be well advised to pick it up, open the gill and give a good sniff. If it stinks, don't buy it. As Hockey13 said, that would mean it was truly rotten.
I imagine the phrase applies by extension to truly rotten films, job performance, fate, or whatever.
Is this a teenage expression or can anybody use it?
It seems a bit old-fashioned to me. Not many people my age would use this instead of the classic phrases, "this really sucks," or "this sucks (fill in body part)." First one is a bit vulgar, second one is very vulgar.
My Da, a true Brooklynite and son of an Irish-American family of undertakers (funeral directors), often used this term. It was in a pseudo-polite way the only way someone could describe a really despicable person without resorting to outright vulgarity. Pretty strong stuff from the "lace-curtain" crowd. As a youngster I just assumed it harkened back to the days before embalming dead bodies became prevalent in North America, but I can see now that it might well refer to ANY (fish, etc) matter which stinks with decomposition. In any event, this term is OVER one-hundred years old
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