The history behind the idiom

‘An X short of a Y’. 

A pejorative phrase meaning not very intelligent or of questionable mental capacity. There are many phrases of the form 'an X short of a Y'. It can appear in many different forms and variations.

Someone that lacks common sense might be described as “a few sandwiches short of a picnic.”

  • few bricks short of a load
  • A few cards short of a full deck
  • A few French fries short of a Happy Meal
  • Two bricks short of a load
  • A few clowns short of a circus

Other examples with the same meaning but different form:

  • Not the sharpest crayon in the box
  • Not quite all there

When the phrase was first used

The phrase was first documented in the BBC’s “Lenny Henry Christmas Special” in 1987. “She’s great fun, but she’s a few sandwiches short of a picnic.”



  1. Because if your sandwich basket is missing a sandwich it means that it is not sufficient for its intended purpose which is a picnic, so if you say a person is one sandwich short of a picnic basket then it’s a “kindish” way of saying their brain is missing something vital for sufficient operation! it’s meant to be humorous and it’s better than saying ” that person is missing brain cells!”

    Liked by 1 person

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