Tag Archives: disability

“As busy as a one-armed bricklayer in Baghdad”

Text: As busy as a one-armed bricklayer in Baghdad.

Context: Tom says he’s “as busy as a one-armed bricklayer in Baghdad” when he finds himself extremely busy with his tasks at hand. He uses the term in all settings, including academic, social, and professional, and sometimes modifies the phrase but always keeps the alliteration aspect of it. He first heard it from his Western Australian uncle, who, in a conversation with Tom’s dad (Tom overheard), employed the simile to explain how busy he was with work as an entrepreneur. He found it very funny the first time he heard it. 

Analysis: This simile is a tool used to liken the sisyphean task of rebuilding a warzone, made even more difficult by a major physical impairment, to occupation with an overwhelming amount of work. Tom explained that in Australian culture, people tend to make funny comparing statements: one-liners that are intended both to convey information and to be comical. I interpret the phrase not only as clever wordplay, but also as a store of historical value as it doubles as a reference to current events (war in the Middle East).