My father-in-law George called Thursday evening and when I asked how he was, he replied, “Busier than a one armed paperhanger.” In case you’ve never heard this phrase before, which could be possible if you’ve never met my father-in-law, but definitely not possible if you have, let me explain.
This expression is thought to have originated in Mississippi. I don’t know if they have a high percentage of single limbed people employed in the wallcovering business in that state. Perhaps there was just one particularly notable appendage-missing member of the paperhanger's guild that started the idea. Either way, someone obviously found non politically correct humor in how incredibly overloaded this poor contractor was. And so a phrase was coined.
The paperhanger response is just one of many great "Georgisms", as I affectionately like to call them. In case you never get the opportunity to meet George in person, here is some of what you’ll be missing:
“Smells worse than the south end of north bound sheep.” This can be used to describe a variety of situations from babies waddling in bad diapers to dinner cooking on the stove.
“Look! A rose between two thorns.” At first glance, not too unusual until you realize he is almost always using it to describe himself while seated between two women.
“More nervous than a long tailed cat in a room full of rockin' chairs." Most often this is used to aptly describe upcoming doctor and dental appointments.
“My you’re looking beautiful today.” Actually, a seemingly nice compliment if you disregard that he most often conveys the sentiment first thing in the morning, when he is talking to you over the phone. On the mornings I get those phone calls, you can be sure that I am not looking very beautiful, but, I probably am busier than a one armed paperhanger.