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    #1

    not the clean potato

    Dear teachers,

    Would you be kind enough to tell me whether I am right with my interpretation of the expression in bold in the following sentence?

    A suspicion he had always entertained, that Cranvier was not by breeding “quite the clean potato”.

    not the clean potato = a suspicious character

    Thanks for your efforts.

    Regard,

    V

  1. Tullia's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: not the clean potato

    That's not an idiom in common use. Can we have some context please?

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    #3

    Re: not the clean potato

    Hi Tullia,

    This time I am lucky to tell you categorical that the sentence in question is 100% English because is from Galsworthy’s “The Dark Flower” part II, chapter VII.

    Here are a few other similar usages of the key phrase in common English literature:

    ..he had long known subconsciously that his father was not “the clean potato”. (Galsworthy’s “In Chancery” part I, chapter II)

    I have nothing against the Catholics, except maybe their Popes. No, boy, I cannot say I approve of your Popes… some of these Borgias, with their poisoned rings and such like, were not quite the clean potato. (Cronin’s “The Green Years” book I, chapter II )

    Thank you that you took keen interest in my titillating enquiries.

    Regards,

    V.

  2. Tullia's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: not the clean potato

    As I, and others, have explained to you before, something appearing in English literature a century ago is no guarantee of it being a common idiom nowadays, if at all. The point of literature is, in part, to come up with interesting and fresh expressions and ways of looking at things. Sometimes, as in your recent thread about a "pound of flesh", a phrase coined by an author might become an idiom, but it doesn't always happen.


    I didn't say it wasn't English, I said it wasn't an idiom in common use. Given that a quick google search for the phrase "the clean potato" gives a top result of this very thread, I think my point stands.

    A very unscientific survey of the other native speakers at my disposal right now resulted in comments:
    [21:49:46] AR says: I was thinking, like, mr. potato head after a shower
    [21:49:52] i says: lolwut? No :/
    [21:50:01] M says: Yeah that's just not a thing

    You may be able to find it used more in a particular region, perhaps, but it is certainly not in widespread usage and I would recommend not using it if you expect to be easily understood.

    An interesting note: having researched the meaning from context, I would say that a common modern expression for the same idea of "not quite the clean potato" would be "a bit of a bad egg".
    Clearly foodstuff appeals as a way of expressing this idea.

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