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I've met this phrase in The Big Bang Theory TV-series, it was a phrase of Sheldon's mother after she forced him to go to apologize to the boss to get his job back:

Leonard, the Lord never gives us more than we can handle. Thankfully, he blessed me with two other children who are dumb as soup.

From the context, it's clearly that it means very stupid. But why? Word soup doesn't associate with any kind of stupidity to me. Also, I haven't found any additional meaning or idioms with this word fitted the situation. Is here some play on word involved? I have found other discussions in the internet about this subject but with no real answer.

btw: I can't force myself to hear soup in that moment. I always hear something like soum, though subtitles say that it is definitely soup word.

5

People say "dumb as [inanimate object]" to indicate "very dumb" with different many inanimate objects used. Some, like "a rock", are used as a general purpose word denoting "something that's really dumb" and are understood globally, while others, like "soup", may be regional or specifically idiomatic to a certain peer group. Others still will be completely made up — native speakers will generally recognize "dumb as [inanimate object]" as an idiom in itself, so you can plug and chug (replace it) with whatever you want, constructing elaborate surreal scenarios like "he's dumb as a pile of especially coarse sand on the beach that a dog has shat on" that will just be understood as "he's really dumb".

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    You might want to clarify "plug and chug", just in case; it's a bit of an unusual idiom. – Nathan Tuggy Jan 30 '16 at 20:37
  • @Nathan Hmm… perhaps it's used mostly in math. – bjb568 Jan 30 '16 at 20:56
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    And the object the person is compared to varies in different languages and cultures. My knee-jerk phrase is "dumb as bread". Note that you choose an inanimate object that in one way or other is seen as simple - "dumb as a Mars Rover" or "dumb as a Swiss watch" won't really work. – Stephie Jan 30 '16 at 20:56
  • I understand that one can say "dumb as X" and put instead of X almost everything and it will keep meaning "very dumb", but they do this TV-series for everyone not for some region where it can be common. Is it possible that directors/script writers just want to uncover some features of the character putting in her mouth these words? For example to emphasize that she is from a region where it is common. – Vitaly Jan 30 '16 at 21:07
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    I don't find any instances of "dumb as soup" in the ngram viewer. "Dumb as a rock" and "dumb as a post" are fairly common. I suspect that this was a term invented by the show writers for humor, to demonstrate that "dumb as" can really be applied to anything (anything simple, as Stephie points out). – BobRodes Jan 31 '16 at 4:48
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The only problem is that the phrase is really not used by the general American English speaking population. True it is understandable and I see that many non-American speaking writers are using it, but it is not that pervasive a phrase that everyone on the street is using it. Understood perhaps, but many will consider strange unless of course they have been following 'The Big Bang Theory' show.

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