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From the film Forrest Gump:

FORREST: Now, for some reason, I fit in the Army like one of them round pegs. It's not really hard. You just make your bed real neat and remember to stand up straight, and always answer every question with, "Yes, Drill Sergeant!"

What does "round pegs" mean here?

Quote cited on IMDB

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  • To close voters: this is unsearchable because the original expression is about a "square peg", and there's no mention of "hole" to search for with it, so I'm leaving this open
    – gotube
    Commented Feb 5, 2022 at 3:55

1 Answer 1

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It's a quirky allusion to the idiomatic square peg in a round hole, used to refer to a situation where someone is not1 well suited to their circumstances. Which is almost always that way round - people don't normally talk about being a round peg in a square hole.

But Gump is saying that he is a metaphorical "round peg" - with the implication that for most people, being in the Army is like being a square peg in a round hole, so they don't fit in. But Gump does fit in (being in the army is weird, but Gump is weird too, in a compatible way).

In case it's not obvious, the specific type of "weirdness" alluded to above is essentially that both Gump and the army in general are stupid, unimaginative, literal-minded.


Here's another example that more explicitly clarifies the intended sense of being "a good fit":

I had a very happy early experience in policing in that my first two years everything fitted into place. The concept of being a round peg in a round hole. I was that round peg. This was my career.


1 The established idiomatic usage refers to someone who doesn't fit in. Where Gump's "quirkily reversed" version means he does fit in (specifically with army life, not necessarily life in general).

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  • Might this fine answer better serve the OP or some readers if fronted with a straightforward "It means someone who fits in easily. More specifically here, it means that Forrest Gump was readily accepted by others and has no problem becoming part of the Army."--or similar? Commented Feb 3, 2022 at 11:42
  • Might the first sentence also benefit from reducing/eliminating the chance that some readers may not be sure which noun phrase is used: "allusion" or "idiomatic ..."? This too is offered as at attempt at refined feedback on an elegant and sublime piece of text. Happy to delete these and so de-clutter if I'm pinged after @Fum 's considered them. Commented Feb 3, 2022 at 11:52
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    @JimReynolds: Thanks for the feedback. But regarding used - in the unlikely event that a reader initially interpreted my [which is] used [in the cited context] to refer to a situation where someone is not well suited to their circumstances as referring back to the allusion rather than the idiomatic [usage] itself, I think they'd surely realise the error by the time they'd read the next two sentences (which only make sense if it's understood that I was summarising the idiomatic usage there). And the text before used is a hot link to that definition. Commented Feb 3, 2022 at 12:38
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    ...but regarding "someone who fits in easily" - that's not quite accurate here. I emphasised Gump is weird too, in a compatible way because we shouldn't assume Gump "fits in easily" everywhere. I've seen the movie, and I can assure you the character gets on my nerves even when I know he's just an actor playing a part (I'd really hate to have to interact with someone like that in real life! :) The point being made is that his character fits in well with the army (if you like that sort of thing). Effectively, it's a "dig" by the scriptwriters. Commented Feb 3, 2022 at 12:46
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    ...but please leave the comments. Anything that gets people thinking about the meanings of words is worth hanging onto, imho. Commented Feb 3, 2022 at 12:48

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