As Happy as A Clam

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Why would clams be happy? It has been suggested that open clams give the appearance of smiling.

The derivation is more likely to come from the fuller version of the phrase, now rarely heard – ‘as happy as a clam at high water’. Hide tide is when clams are free from the attentions of predators; surely the happiest of times in the bivalve mollusc world.

The phrase originated in the north-eastern states of the USA in the early 19th century. The earliest citation that I can find is from a frontier memoir The Harpe’s Head – A Legend of Kentucky, 1833:

In the United States, the word “clam” has several different meanings. First, it can generally refer to all bivalve molluscs. In the more limited sense, the term refers to the large subset of bivalves living as infauna, rather than those attached to a substrate (like oysters and mussels) or those that lie and move near the bottom or swim (like scallops). It can also refer to one or more kinds of commonly consumed marine bivalves, such as in the phrase clam chowder, which refers to shellfish soup. Many edible clams are roughly oval-shaped or triangular; however, razor clams have an elongated parallel-sided shell, suggesting an old-fashioned straight razor.

In the United Kingdom, “clam” is one of the common names of various species of marine bivalve mollusc, but it is not used as a term covering either edible clams that burrow or bivalves in general.

Numerous edible marine bivalve species live buried in sand or mud and respire by means of siphons, which reach to the surface. In the United States, these clams are collected by “digging for clams” or clam digging.

The word “clam” is used in the idiom “to clam up”, meaning to refuse to talk or answer, based on the clam behaviour of quickly closing the shell when threatened.[4] A “clamshell” is the name given to a container or mobile phone consisting of two hinged halves that lock together. Clams have also inspired the phrase “happy as a clam”, short for “happy as a clam at high tide” (when it can’t easily be dug up and eaten).

15 Interesting Facts about the Clam:

  • Fact 1 – Definition: The clam is a burrowing marine mollusk living on sand or mud. A mollusk is invertebrate having a soft un-segmented body usually enclosed in a shell. The shell of the clam closes with vice-like firmness.
  • Fact 2 – Freshwater clams are very popular in home aquariums
  • Fact 3 – The clam has no head, no biting mouth parts and no arms or legs
  • Fact 4 – Clams are made up of a pair of shells and a soft inner body
  • Fact 5 – Bivalve mollusks like clams also include oysters and mussels
  • Fact 6 – A clam’s shell consists of two, usually equal, halves
  • Fact 7 – The shell halves are connected by an elastic hinge- like ligament
  • Fact 8 – Clam are herbivores eating mainly plankton
  • Fact 9 – Clams have no eyes, ears, or noses, so they cannot see, hear, or smell
  • Fact 10 – The gills of clams remove oxygen and food particles from the water
  • Fact 11 – Clams, including the Giant Clam is considered a delicacy in Japan
  • Fact 12 – The Giant clam has a lifespan of over 100 years
  • Fact 13 – The Giant clam, Tridacna gigas, is the largest bivalve mollusk
  • Fact 14 – The giant clam can weigh more than 200 kilograms (441 lb)
  • Fact 15 – The shells of Giant Clams can measure up to 4 ft across!

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August 23, 2016 |

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