meaning of "tight-fisted"

imchongjun

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Hi.
I have trouble understanding the following passage from a humorous sf novel.

"They finally gave in," the painter told him. "But do you think they'll
buy new signs? Nah. Cheap. That's all they are. Cheap as pretzels." He
gave Malone a friendly push with one end of the ladder and disappeared
into the crowd.
Malone didn't have the faintest idea of what he was talking about. And
how cheap could a pretzel be, anyway? Malone didn't remember ever having
seen an especially tight-fisted one.
New York, he decided for the fifteenth time, was a strange place.
(http://www.gutenberg.org/files/24444/24444-h/24444-h.htm)

What does "tight-fisted" mean? It usually means "unwilling to part with money", but I don't think "stingy pretzel" makes sense. Does "one" here mean a "person"? I am completely at a loss. I appreciate your help. Thank you.
 

MikeNewYork

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I think "pretzel" is an error. "Person" works there.
 

JMurray

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The meanings for "cheap" that are relevant here are:
– stingy, miserly
– inexpensive

"Nah. Cheap. That's all they are. Cheap as pretzels."
It's clear from the original text that the intended meaning here is "stingy", "miserly".

Although I've not heard the phrase, I assume that "cheap as pretzels" (like the common "cheap as chips") usually means "inexpensive".

I can only think that the painter has employed a familiar phrase for him that means "inexpensive", to also mean "stingy".
Hence, Malone is confused – how can a pretzel be stingy (tight-fisted)?
 

MikeNewYork

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"Cheap as pretzels" works for me, but "tight-fisted pretzel" doesn't.
 

Roman55

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I am not a teacher.

The OP says this comes from a humorous sf novel so pretzel means pretzel.
'Cheap as pretzels.' plays on two of the meanings of cheap i.e. inexpensive and miserly.

The second reference to 'pretzel' continues the humour with the absurd image of a pretzel being tight fisted. I don't think there is any error here at all. 'One' means a pretzel, not a person.
 

JMurray

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'Cheap as pretzels.' plays on two of the meanings of cheap i.e. inexpensive and miserly.

I agree. It's this play on words that confuses Malone.
 

Barb_D

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Is "cheap as chips" a common expression? It's not one that I've heard, nor is "cheap as pretzels."
 

bhaisahab

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I've heard "as cheap as chips", but I've never heard "as cheap as pretzels".
 

JMurray

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Is "cheap as chips" a common expression?

It's marked as "UK" on the UsingEnglish list of idiomatic expressions and it's certainly common in Aust/NZ, in my experience. However, it's clearly not as widespread as I'd assumed.
 
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