Idioms: Happy as a Clam

An idiom is a group of words or expression whose meaning cannot be taken from the literal meaning of the individual words in the expression.

clam, wikipedia

clam, wikipedia

What does it mean if one is happy as a clam, happy as a clam at high tide, or happy as a clam in mud at high tide? These idioms simply mean that one is happy and content. Some facts about these marine mollusks that are eaten by humans and other predators make me wonder if clams even know what happiness is.

Some Facts About Clams
1) A clam has no brain, therefore it cannot think. Can one be happy without a brain?
2) A clam has no eyes, ears, or nose. Without these, it cannot see, hear, or smell. If you lived in a totally black, completely silent, and entirely odorless world, would life hold any meaning for you?
3) A clam has no teeth to bite with, no arms, and no legs. It moves about with its foot or floats along with the water.

crocea clam, reefcorner.com

crocea clam, reefcorner.com

Does the clam have any reason to be happy?
1) A clam doesn’t have to get up and go to work every day. All he has to do is float around in the ocean and hope he isn’t eaten by a predator. But wait – since he has no brain, is he capable of hoping?
2) A young clam doesn’t have to go to school and has no homework.
3) A clam doesn’t have to pay taxes.
4) A clam doesn’t have to pay bills. And the list goes on and on.

A clam doesn’t have to do all the above things that people have to do. They don’t cook, clean, or do any of the other human chores. But they don’t read, watch movies, or develop friendships. Could they have some sort of secret language with which they communicate with each other?

Clams are easily found during low tide. When the tide is high, and the clam is buried in the sand under all of the ocean’s water, it is hard for any human predator to get hold of him. Could this be why they are supposedly happy?

giant clams on seafloor, oceanexplorer noaa.gov

giant clams on seafloor, oceanexplorer noaa.gov

But has anyone ever interviewed a clam and asked his opinion about all of this? Or is the reasoning just guesswork? As far as I know, no one has ever interviewed a clam, but there is a fictional doctor, Dr. Patra Gupta, from the fictional Kerala Institute of Undersea Study, who has made the claim that clams are not happy at all. In fact he claims they are severely depressed.

And why does he claim this? He says that the DNA structure of their liquid secretions is the same as the DNA structure of human tears. This would mean they cry a lot. They are extremely inactive and taken by the ocean wherever they go. According to him, suicidal people have more interest in life, and comatose patients have a higher level of activity.

If a clam is attacked, its shell will slam shut and refuse to be opened. This is its only protection against a predator. When a person clams up, absolutely nothing about the situation being discussed comes out of his mouth. If someone shuts up like a clam, then he suddenly stops talking and refuses to say more.

girl writing, etc.usf.edu

girl writing, etc.usf.edu

Writing Prompts
Write a fictional story where a clam is interviewed and tells how he feels about these idioms. Is he really happy? Could this fictional doctor have discovered the truth? Are suicidal people and comatose patients more satisfied with life than a clam?

You could also write a story where you try to interview a clam about whether or not he is happy, but the clam clams up and refuses to say eve one word. How do you convince him to speak?

I hope you understand the meanings of these idioms – happy as a clam, shut up like a clam, and clam up – just a bit better now. Have fun finding ways to use them in your writing!

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