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Clams Oysters and Scallops

Where did the saying happy as a clam come from?

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Aida Medhurst
December 13, 2019 11:00PM

This saying originated in the early 1800s in the northeast United States, where they eat a lot of clams. At first blush, the phrase seems kind of weird—what could clams possibly have to be happy about?

Turns out our modern idiom is missing some key context. The original phrase was actually “happy as a clam at high tide” or “at high water.” Clams can only be harvested at low tide, so they’re safe and therefore presumably happy at high tide. It’s not completely clear how or why the phrase got shortened, but the meaning has remained pretty much the same.

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Wiki User
April 15, 2012 10:12PM

This is only part of the phrase. It is actually " Happy as a clam at high water". In New England clams can only be harvested at low tide. So the clam is safe and happy when the water is high.