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Knee-high to a grasshopper

To be knee-high to a grasshopper means to be very short or very young. Though the second meaning is heard more commonly. The idiom literally means to reach a grasshopper’s knee.  It is usually used in reference to a time long ago when someone was younger/littler than the present.

The first term is always hyphenated as an adjective describing someone or something’s height.

History


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This idiom originated in the United States in 1814 as the phrase knee-high to a toad. Many animals have been used in the idiom, such as mosquito, duck, jackrabbit, bumble bee, splinter, and others. It was about 1850 when grasshopper was introduced into the phrase in a political opinion article describing the opposition. Over time grasshopper has become the standard comparison.

Examples

When I interviewed Judge Judy, I realised that I was interviewing an icon, which was quite nerve-wrecking. She was really lovely – she’s only knee-high to a grasshopper, and she’s a bundle of energy. [Irish Independent]

I’m sure they didn’t know who I was, in fact, I doubt if they noticed me, but when I got within hearing distance, a little bloke who was about knee high to a grasshopper yelled out at the top of his voice, “Look out here comes Meckiff!” [Mid-day]

“I have known Mitch since he was knee-high to a grasshopper and it’s no surprise to see him putting it together. At times we can be impatient, but the kid is only 22, and he’s missed a lot of cricket because of injury,” Moody said. [Sydney Morning Herald]

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