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In the below passage, what does Jalil's comment mean?

Jalil never called Mariam this name. Jalil said she was his little flower. He was fond of sitting her on his lap and telling her stories, like the time he told her that Herat, the city where Mariam was born, in 1959, had once been the cradle of Persian culture, the home of writers, painters, and Sufis.

"You couldn't stretch a leg here without poking a poet in the ass," he laughed.

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    Please give the source of literary quotations that you ask questions about. Oct 17, 2022 at 8:03
  • This appears to be from A Thousand Splendid Suns
    – user170231
    Oct 17, 2022 at 16:27
  • Will you either drop, or explain the value of "Jalil never called Mariam this name. Jalil said she was his little flower. He was fond of sitting her on his lap and telling her stories, like the time he told her that Herat, the city where Mariam was born, in 1959, had once been the cradle of Persian culture, the home of writers, painters, and Sufis"? Does that leave "You couldn't stretch a leg here without poking a poet in the ass," or what, please? Oct 17, 2022 at 22:41

1 Answer 1

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The writer is trying to say that there were lots of poets around. Wherever you were, whatever direction you were facing, if you stretched your leg you would hit a poet. They were all around.

I've heard variations of this. Like, "You couldn't throw a rock from a train without hitting an X".

The details of stretching a leg versus, say, swinging your arm, and of hitting a poet in the rear end versus in the stomach, are irrelevant to the point.

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    Yeah it's not a common phrasing but the general formula is simply "you couldn't [verb] a [noun] without hitting [common thing]."
    – JamieB
    Oct 17, 2022 at 16:11
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    A popular similar variation of this without the [common thing] is "Not Enough Room to Swing a Cat"
    – Jack
    Oct 18, 2022 at 14:26
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    Or "you can't swing a dead cat without hitting <some common thing>"
    – FreeMan
    Oct 18, 2022 at 16:37
  • I think its worth mentioning that saying "you couldn't throw a rock without hitting a poet" would seem like a boring/plain phrase so by whereas by making it crass the character says the same thing but maintains their personality while saying it. Oct 18, 2022 at 21:17
  • @SidharthGhoshal I suppose that's a matter of taste. Personally I find the "stick in the a**" phrasing vulgar and distasteful. I grasp that others find it amusing and clever. I suppose that's an issue that comes up routinely when you use vulgarity: Some will find it distasteful or even offensive, others will find it amusing.
    – Jay
    Oct 23, 2022 at 2:34

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