I found this sentence from a book (English book):

Let's sit somewhere else; they always talk shop over lunch, and it bores me rigid.

The definition of this word is stiff or inflexible according to some dictionaries. I think that word has the alternative meaning in the sentence above. There's also a discussion here discussing the usage of rigid, but I still haven't got any clue. As far as I can understand, I guess it's to emphasize something when we use really, right.

For instance, the last clause (in my opinion) can be replaced by:

... it really bores me.

Is my assumption correct?

  • 1
    In the U.S., the more common variant of the expression is to be "bored stiff." It means to be extremely bored. No idea why. m-w.com suggests that the word "stiff" can mean "extremely," and cites "bored stiff" as an example, but I've never heard the word "stiff" used this way except in combination with "bored." I've never heard this expression with "rigid," but apparently it exists.
    – cruthers
    Oct 9, 2021 at 3:29
  • @cruthers There's also "scared stiff"
    – gotube
    Oct 9, 2021 at 4:03
  • @gotube: That one makes some degree of figurative sense considering the physical meaning of "stiff" - i.e., so scared that you can't even move - so it's not clear to me that "stiff" means "extremely" in the more general sense in that expression. I had always assumed there was some historical figurative explanation of "bored stiff" too, but the idea that you're so bored that you can't even move seems like a stretch.
    – cruthers
    Oct 9, 2021 at 4:21
  • The idea of being figuratively immobilised by extreme emotion or powerful experience is fairly common - I remember reading an account of a young upper class British teenage girl in the 1930s, a virgin, discussing sex with a slightly older girl. 'What was it like?' asked the younger girl. 'Riveting' was the reply. Oct 9, 2021 at 6:53
  • Bored stiff is the usual idiom in British English too. I think bored rigid is just a humorous variation. Oct 9, 2021 at 8:34

1 Answer 1


We can use figurative language to express that an idea, experience, emotion, etc, has affected us very strongly. Often the figurative expression will pretend that the experience:

  • made us weep - bored to tears

  • killed us - bored to death

  • paralysed us - bored/scared/worried stiff or rigid

  • caused us to become mentally paralysed or incapable - bored/scared/worried witless (or stupid)

  • rendered us unconscious - bored senseless

  • (vulgarly) extremely constipated - bored/scared/worried shitless

The supposed physical or mental effect may have some basis in reality or may be imaginary.

The more strongly counter-factual the expression, the stronger the feeling, e.g. My son made me watch a 'superhero' film, and I literally died of boredom waiting for it to end.

When I was very small my aunt promised to take me to the seaside in her car, and my mother told someone I was 'thrilled to bits'. Of course I did not break into little pieces, although I remember the mental image that the expression produced (a Michael made of glass, shattered).

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