without overbrimming the proverbial peck of dirt

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shabbeh

New Member
Persian
One could have eaten a meal off the ground without overbrimming the proverbial peck of dirt

without overbrimming the proverbial peck of dirt = ?
 
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  • owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    Thanks for the answer, Shabbeh. I don't think I have heard the expression before. I'm sorry, but I can't even think of any proverbs about a peck of dirt.

    I can't really imagine what these two images have to do with each other:
    (1) The floor is so clean you can eat off it.
    (2) You can eat off it without spilling/overbrimming the proverbial peck of dirt.

    What are you trying to tell me with these two ideas? Can you explain it in ordinary language?
     

    shabbeh

    New Member
    Persian
    This is a part of Anne of Green Gables

    Not a stray stick nor stone was to be seen, for Mrs. Rachel would have
    seen it if there had been. Privately she was of the opinion that Marilla
    Cuthbert swept that yard over as often as she swept her house. One could
    have eaten a meal off the ground without overbrimming the proverbial
    peck of dirt.



    i can not understand the meaning .
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    Thanks for the context, Shabbeh. I think the writer was just trying to be funny by mixing up two expressions: (1) The floor was so clean you could eat off it. (2) You could do this without knocking over a basket of dirt, whatever that means. :) The writer is referring to some proverb that doesn't mean anything to me. Maybe somebody else will recognize it.

    I can tell you that this strange remark is just a way to tell us that Marilla Cuthbert was very clean and neat. She was so neat that you could actually eat off her floor without getting your food dirty.
     

    Nunty

    Senior Member
    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    There is apparently an old saying that you have to "eat a peck of dirt" before you die. (A peck is a measurement of volume.) Here is one reference. The expression could apparently be metaphorical ("dirt" meaning unpleasant life experiences) but is being used literally here, as owlman explained.

    Given the historical period and rural setting of Anne of Green Gables, the expression fits very nicely.
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    There is apparently an old saying that you have to "eat a peck of dirt" before you die. (A peck is a measurement of volume.) Here is one reference. The expression could apparently be metaphorical ("dirt" meaning unpleasant life experiences) but is being used literally here, as owlman explained.

    Given the historical period and rural setting of Anne of Green Gables, the expression fits very nicely.
    Nunty, I'm delighted to have you, our resident Anne of Green Gables expert, clear things up for me. :)
     

    j p maher

    New Member
    usa english
    Yes, the effective meaning is exactly "she sweeps the floor so clean you can eat off it". When a vessel (container) is full (to the brim), it overflows. The phrase "proverbial peck of _" is complex; it serves to introduce a proverb. Such, by definition, should be a saying that is well known and much used, e.g. '(go) the extra mile; a fly in the ointment." But even a native-speaker of English today would not know a proverb "peck of dirt". A proverb never heard is an oxymoron and no longer a proverb. Nunty wisely found the pre-supermarket proverb, which many of us never heard. "Dirt ~soil" can imply the opposite of clean. these words can also refer to 'earth ~ soil in the sense of the ground beneath us where plants grow. On white clothing, even God's good earth can be unwanted, hence the shifting border of 'dirt ~soil'... We sweep the floor to get it clean. You do not want to leave even a speck, a minute amount, of dirt. Bushel and peck are dry measures. (Google for the exact equivalence in the metric system used everywhere but in English countries..) A peck would be a lot; a bushel would be much more. We had a pop(ular) song once "I love you... a bushel and a peck ... and a hug around the neck." That's a lot, much. People today buy little packages of food in supermarkets, but in my boyhood (1930s, 1940s), produce was displayed loose in open-air markets or "Mom and Pop stores"; you would buy a pint of berries, a peck or a bushel of potatoes or apples. So, "a peck of dirt" on a floor that someone supposedly swept (clean) would be hyperbole for a (small) amount of dirt. You're not supposed to leave any at all. The phrase today seems effete, archaic and wouldn't win any prize for wit or literature. -- This text is a killer.
     
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    milanforart

    Member
    Chinese
    New question added to previous thread. Cagey, moderator

    Not a stray stick nor stone was to be seen, for Mrs. Rachel would have seen it if there had been. Privately she was of the opinion that Marilla Cuthbert swept that yard over as often as she swept her house. One could have eaten a meal off the ground without overbrimming the proverbial peck of dirt. (From Anne Of Green Gables by Montgomery, Lucy Maud)

    Hi, I know each word of the last sentence, but fail to get the meaning. Could anyone explain it to me?
     
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    Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    I don't know how "proverbial" it is, but where I grew up, there was a saying among children that "you're going to eat a peck of dirt before you die"—meaning that you needn't worry about getting dirt in your mouth, since everyone was destined to consume a peck of dirt over a lifetime. As I recall (dimly), it was used to justify our failing to wash our hands thoroughly.
     

    SwissPete

    Senior Member
    Français (CH), AE (California)
    I have no idea what overbrimming means here.

    Here is the definition of that I found: To flow over the brim; to overflow.
     
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