As happy as a Clam

As happy as a Clam : Phrases


Very happy and content.


An early version is 'as happy as a clam at high water'. Clams are free from the attentions of predators at high tide, so perhaps that's a reason to consider them happy then. The earliest known citation doesn't mention water though. That's in Harvardiana, 1834:

"That peculiar degree of satisfaction, usually denoted by the phrase 'as happy as a clam'."

John G. Saxe, the American writer best known for his poem The Blind Men and the Elephant, used the phrase in his Sonnet to a Clam, in the late 1840s:

Inglorious friend! most confident I am
Thy life is one of very little ease;
Albeit men mock thee with their similes,
And prate of being "happy as a clam!"
What though thy shell protects thy fragile head
From the sharp bailiffs of the briny sea?
Thy valves are, sure, no safety-valves to thee,
While rakes are free to desecrate thy bed,
And bear thee off, - as foemen take their spoil,
Far from thy friends and family to roam;
Forced, like a Hessian, from thy native home,
To meet destruction in a foreign broil!
Though thou art tender, yet thy humble bard
Declares, O clam! thy case is shocking hard!

The phrase originated in the US and possibly before 1834. In 1848 the Southern Literary Messenger - Richmond, Virginia expressed the opinion that the phrase "is familiar to everyone".

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