The phrase has come to mean “happy, content and satisfied.”
So if you think you are as happy as a clam, here’s what I want to know …
Why would you want to be likened to a clam?
They are ugly and just sit there like lumps.
How does anyone know that clams are happy?
Do they smile? Laugh? Why exactly do people think clams are happy? They get eaten by both seagulls and people, that wouldn’t make ME happy!
According to my old biology textbook, clams don’t have a brain. They can’t think. My extrapolation is that if they can’t think what do they have to be happy about?
What Does “Happy As A Clam” MEAN?
According to the smart people at knowyourphrase.com
“There’s two versions of this phrase. The full version is “as happy as a clam at high tide [or water],” and then there’s the shorter version “as happy as a clam.”
Why, though, would a clam would be “happy” in the first place? Well, the reason for that is actually highlighted in the full version of this expression.
Basically, clams are most vulnerable when the tides are low because that’s the time when people can easily dig them up out of the ground. In higher waters, however, clams are far more difficult to find and dig up. Hence, a clam is “happiest” during a high tide, or high waters, because it means they are less likely to be caught and eaten!”
YEP, I am sure the clam knows all of this, and is therefore happy for about 12 hours out of 24.
No one knows exactly who came up with this phrase, but they seem quite certain it originated on the east coast of the United States (where clams were abundant) in the 1830s.
In 1840 poet John G. Saxe wrote …
An Ode To A Clam
“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!’ “
And then in 1941 this was found in the Bangor Daily Whig And Courier
“Your correspondent has given an interesting, and, undoubtedly correct explanation of the expression: ‘As happy as a clam at high water.’ His pursuits must be anything but Clam-berous, if we may judge from his knowledge of the nature and habit of this interesting little fish.”
OK, what I understand from the quote above, is that “your correspondent” knew nothing about biology, because even I know a clam is NOT a fish.
As happy as a clam was officially claimed as an American idiom in 1848 when it was included in Bartlett’s Dictionary of Americanisms. (bloomsbury-international.com)
To sum it up …
The phrase means you are … duh … happy.
It is American and originated on the east coast where clams were plentiful
It first appeared in print in the early 1840’s
It officially was claimed as an American idiom in 1848 by Bartlett’s Dictionary of Americanisms.
My five year old brain would have concluded:
If you are as happy as a clam, it means no one wants to eat you for dinner, you are ugly as sin and have no brains.
Being happier than a pig in shit now seems like a major upgrade to me!