9

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tS8oLlPOhPY&t=5m49s

In an episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003), Michelangelo is attacked by a crocodile. After managing to escape it, he tells his brothers about it. Raphael then responds: "We should have seen it coming, bro. You’re one rib short of a barbecue." What should they have seen coming? What does "You're on rib short of a barbecue" mean?

I tried Googling the idiom, but all I could find is a similar one: one rib short of a slab. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0235553/characters/nm0188025

Malik Bishop : [narrating after O.G. Buddy cusses out their boss Damien] Damien was definitely one rib short of a slab. Change was definitely in the air: change for Buddy, change for Damien and change for me. That afternoon I watched Buddy self-destruct just like I watched my father self-destruct. Buddy knew that going up against Damien was like blowing your own brains out. Damien was a crazy motherfucker, that's for sure. Suddenly, the things that Buddy talked about before, made sense: this was a shitty job.

1
  • 3
    The accepted answer is completely correct but you might be interested in a highly related phrase: "not the sharpest knife in the drawer". It means nearly the same thing -- usually talking about a lack of intelligence. It also has countless offshoots that follow the same form, like "not the brightest bulb in the pack".
    – eps
    Oct 3, 2021 at 16:43

2 Answers 2

17

To be short of an amount of something is to have less than that amount. E.g. if I am ten cents short of the dollar I need for something, I have 90 cents.

To say that someone is [one thing] or [a few things] short of [a complete set or collection of things] is to say that that person is mad or stupid - lacking a complete set of mental faculties. A slab is a butcher's term for all of the ribs on one side of a carcass, joined together.

One knife short of a cutlery drawer
One spanner (or wrench) short of a toolkit
A few slices short of a loaf

(etc)

Native speakers can invent such expressions and be understood.

be one ... short of a ...

spoken used humorously to say that someone is a little crazy or stupid

Lady, are you a few aces short of a deck?
He’s one sandwich short of a picnic.

be one ... short of a ... (Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English)

Australians say that a stupid person is 'not the full quid' (some pennies short of a pound [pre-decimal currency, succeeded in 1966 by Australian dollars, made up of 100 cents])

12
  • 3
    My favourite: One chip/fry short of a Happy Meal. Oct 3, 2021 at 4:03
  • 1
    "An electron short of a coulomb" - useful in physics/electronics scenarios.
    – SusanW
    Oct 3, 2021 at 10:48
  • 2
    Similar to Australia, "not the full shilling" was used in the UK when I was growing up. Oct 3, 2021 at 13:32
  • 3
    "One lettuce leaf short of a sandwich", in the UK. The saying "the lights are on but no-one's at home" has a similar meaning.
    – alephzero
    Oct 3, 2021 at 13:33
  • 2
    @RichardWard - in Australia, in 1966 the currency went from 'pre-decimal' pounds ('quid'), shillings and pence to 'decimal' dollars. Oct 3, 2021 at 15:53
1

The context you've quoted it in doesn't seem to make sense, but in English all of these 'you're one xyz short of a....' are essentially all the same. They usually mean that someone is crazy, or that something doesn't work properly.

1
  • 1
    Hi, welcome to ELL. If your page is not directly pertinent to the question, please don't include it in your answer.
    – Eddie Kal
    Oct 3, 2021 at 6:36

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .