Not Playing with a Full Deck (Origin)

by Craig Shrives

What Is the Origin of the Saying "Not Playing with a Full Deck"?

The term "not playing with a full deck" means lacking intelligence. It is an adverbial phrase used to describe a person. For example:
  • He is not playing with a full deck.
Not Playing with a Full Deck (Origin)

Examples of Use:

  • Be easy on him. He's not playing with a full deck.
  • That is a mad suggestion. I think you're not playing with a full deck.
  • The old lady is talking to herself a lot. She's not playing with a full deck.
The "deck" in this idiom relates to a deck of cards. The idiom is one of several that have emerged since the 1950s to suggest that something is missing. It is, of course, a metaphor for part of the brain being missing. Other versions include:
  • A sandwich short of a picnic
  • A few fries short of a Happy Meal
  • A few bricks shy of a load
  • Only has one oar in the water
  • The elevator doesn't go all the way to the top floor
  • His cheese has slipped off its cracker
  • A couple of beers shy of a six pack
  • One prawn short of a cocktail

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See Also

What are idioms? What is figurative language? A list of common grammar errors A list of easily confused words A list of sayings and proverbs

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