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According to The Free Dictionary:

Eager beaver: One that is exceptionally, often excessively industrious or zealous

And:

To be more catholic than the Pope: To adhere more stringently to Roman Catholic practices and doctrine than is required by church doctrine; - usually used in a negative sense to mean, to be excessively pious.

We Persians use the second expression equal to the Persian expression which is: A bowl which is hotter than the soup that means a person who cares to the others business specially instead of people who are responsible about more than them or more than his/her own business.

So I want to know is it correct to consider two above expressions as synonyms or equal to each other or not?

  • A phrase that would be much closer to a bowl which is hotter than the soup is the expression a pot calling a kettle black. – J.R. May 28 '13 at 0:28
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    @J.R. It is not. Because "a pot calling a kettle black" is an idiom used to claim that a person is guilty of the very thing of which they accuse another. But "A bowl hotter than the soup" is about a person who is ridiculously serious about a business (usually the others business) more than the authority of that business. Completely different idioms with different meanings. – Persian Cat May 28 '13 at 0:36
  • In my opinion, pot vs. kettle is closer to bowl hotter than soup than either more catholic than the Pope or eager beaver – that's all I was trying to say. It may not mean the same thing, but it's closer than the two you mention here, in my opinion. (Notice I didn't claim they were equivalent). – J.R. May 28 '13 at 2:20
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    @J.R. - You are giving false information. bowl hotter than the soup*pot calling the kettle black* has absolutely nothing to do with pot calling the kettle black, but is certainly similar in meaning to more Catholic than the Pope or eager beaver. – John Gowers May 28 '13 at 6:41
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    @Donkey: My exposure to the Persian expression is very limited; I learned of it after seeing this question. The kettle phrase is used when one person criticizes another, yet the criticism could apply equally well to the either person. In my experience, though, when that phrase is used, it's not simply acknowledging that the criticism could apply to both people. Instead, it's saying that, because it could apply to both, the speaker should mind his own business. Hence, I thought there was a slight overlap – more so than the Pope saying, anyway. – J.R. May 28 '13 at 9:21
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Eager beaver and more catholic than the Pope are nowhere near synonyms.

The Free Dictionary definition may be misleading when it says an eager beaver is often excessively industrious. The term is often used approvingly, or with no particular value judgement implied. But more importantly, eager beaver can be applied to anyone who's keen to get on with anything. I imagine it owes most of its currency to the alliteration.

On the other hand, more Catholic than the Pope is always pejorative and/or exaggerated, and never applies to anything other than a person's (specifically, Catholic) religious faith (although there is the closely-related rhetorical question "Is the Pope a Catholic?", light-heartedly meaning "Definitely yes!").

5

They are not synonyms, and they do not even overlap very much. Both connote excessive zeal; but one who is more Catholic than the Pope is zealous for a doctrine, while an eager beaver is zealous to do as much as possible.

More Catholic than the Pope may be used figuratively of a follower of any orthodoxy: Protestant, Muslim, Nazi, Marxist, Capitalist, Environmentalist, or even a proponent of a particular method of making a martini or bidding a hand at bridge. It usually implies a very narrow interpretation of orthodox doctrine and practice and a corresponding intolerance of opposing viewpoints.

Eager beaver has nothing to do with conformity to a doctrine or opinion, but with an enthusiastic willingness to work hard (but not necessarily competently!) at whatever business he or she feels called to perform.

Neither implies anything like your Persian expression (although an ideological zealot may be all too ready to monitor your opinions and behavior, and the eager beaver may be disposed to do for you things you would rather do for yourself or leave undone).

  • I don't recall ever hearing of an Islamic extremist, for example, being described as more Catholic than the Pope. I think in these troubled times I could hardly avoid noticing such an unusual usage. Noting that thefreedictionary defines "outherod" as to surpass in evil, excesses, or cruelty (clearly not the sense intended in Scott's Ivanhoe), I suppose we should expect a generic verb "outpope" soon, meaning "to be overzealous in one's cause". – FumbleFingers May 27 '13 at 21:25
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    @FumbleFingers 1) Here's a collocation which writes of Islamic extremists under that phrase as headline. 2) Scott is alluding to Hamlet's diatribe against ham actors who overplay villains: "I would have such a fellow whipped for o'erdoing Termagant. It out-Herods Herod. Pray you, avoid it."3) It's likely to be a little easier to outpope this one than Ratzinger. – StoneyB May 27 '13 at 21:46
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    1) They should get a native English speaker to copyedit the "iran-press-service". 2) I'm happy that Scott's usage doesn't rely on any Shakespearean antecedent - it's just (from OED) to be more extreme or outrageous than (sometimes without the implication of viciousness). 3) Suits me fine (I like my Popes retired or retiring! :) – FumbleFingers May 27 '13 at 22:04
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"Bowl hotter than the soup" equates to (Parishioner being) "more Catholic than the Pope."

"Eager beaver" does mean "zealous," but in the good sense of "trying hard." "More Catholic than the Pope" means over zealous, and has the connotation of "trying too hard. That's what I believe your Persian expression means.

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