The other day I was responding to an email from my friend Joan and this expression came to my fingers out of the blue while describing how busy I have been lately. “I’m as busy as a one armed paper hanger” was the phrase I used. My hubby would be proud of me – he is the undisputed KING of clichés and one liners.
As soon as it flew from my fingers I started to wonder from whence it came. So, off I go to my handy-dandy personal encyclopaedia and dictionary – my pal Google:
“As you may have gleaned from reading between the lines of that little rant, a "paper hanger" is a contactor, one who specializes in the art of installing wallpaper. "Hanging" wallpaper is a tricky business under the best of circumstances, requiring, at a minimum, steady nerves and both arms, so the vision of a "one-armed paper hanger" is one of frenzied desperation as the "hanger" frantically attempts to slap paste on the wall, apply and align the paper, and smooth out the whole shebang. "Impossible" doesn't begin to cover it.
Of course, wallpaper hanging isn't the only task that becomes infinitely more difficult with only one arm, and "one-armed" has been used to mean "not fully effective" since the 19th century. The earliest use in print of the "one-armed paper hanger" image occurs in the 1908 O. Henry (William Sydney Porter) short story "The Gentle Grafter": "And then I got as busy as a one-armed man with the nettle-rash pasting on wall-paper." That "nettle-rash" is a nice detail, conveying, on top of the poor sap's other problems, an urgent need to scratch a terrible itch.”
Well, now you’ve learned something – let’s have a peek at some great wallpapers that need better than a one-armed paper hanger :)
I’m loving all these papers, and am now rethinking my plans for some of the rooms in my home :) – but isn’t that true for any research we do for blog posts? It’s so very inspirational!