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See Also: CLEANLINESS
- The big house ran like a Swiss clock — Rita Mae Brown
- (The market is in absolute) chaos … like people running out on the field after a Mets game —Howard Farber, New York Times, October 5, 1986
- The chaos described by Farber refers to the x-rated video industry.
Chaotic as the floor of the stock exchange at the closing bell —William Diehl
- (Chaos and) disorder is like a pebble in my shoe or loose hair under my shirt collar —Warren Miller
- Disorder piles up like a (local California) mountain —Janet Flanner
- Household ordered like a monastic establishment —Gustave Flaubert
- Housekeeping, like good manners, is usually inconspicuous —Peg Bracken
- Keeps house like a Dutch housekeeper —Anaĩs Nin
The person whose neatness is likened to that of a Dutch housekeeper is novelist Henry Miller.
- (The whole lot was) littered like a schoolroom after a paper fight —Mary Hood
- Neat and bare as a Gl’s footlocker —George Garrett
See Also: EMPTINESS
- (Withered little Filipino men, as) neat and brittle as whiskbrooms —Fletcher Knebel
- Neat and dustless as a good museum —George Garrett
- Neat and soft as a puff of smoke —George Garrett
See Also: SOFTNESS
- Neat as a coffin —Anon
- Neat as a cupcake —Laurie Colwin
- (The little one-story house was as …) neat as a fresh pinafore —Raymond Chandler
- Neat as a hoop —Rosellen Brown
- Neat as a morgue —Wilfrid Sheed
- Neat as an employee prepared to be given a pink slip and told to clear out his desk within half an hour —Elyse Sommer
- Neat as a pin —American colloquialism
This has its roots in the English expression “Neat as a ninepence,” and serves as continuing inspiration for catchy “Neat as” comparisons.
- (House,) neat as a stamp collection —Marge Piercy
- (He was) neat as a warm stone —Don Robertson
- Neat as pie crust —Julia O’Faolain
- (You are) rumpled like a sweater —Marge Piercy
Another example of a simile used as an introducer, in this case a poem entitled Nothing More Will Happen.
- Their rooms were neat as monk’s cells —Babs H. Deal
- (He said that) the lawn and house should be neat and pass inspection … like a soldier’s bunk and beard —Mary Morris
- Untidy … like a bird of paradise that had been out all night in the rain —Oscar Wilde
at sixes and sevens In a state of disorder and confusion; higgledy-piggledy; unable to agree, at odds. Originally set on six and seven, this expression derives from the language of dicing and is said to be a variation of set on cinque and sice. This early form of the expression dates from the time of Chaucer when it often applied to the hazardous nature of one’s fate in general. By the 18th century, the plural sixes and sevens was standard; earlier, the expression had undergone other changes: the verb set was dropped, at replaced on, and the applicability of the expression broadened to accommodate any situation or state of affairs. Although the OED authenticates the dicing theory as the source of this expression, many stories—some more plausible than others-have been related to explain its origin.
If I was to go from home … everything would soon go to sixes and sevens. (Mrs. Elizabeth Blower, George Bateman, 1782)
bollixed up Thrown into disorder or confusion; chaotic, topsy-turvy; messed up, bungled, flubbed. Ballocks ‘testes’ dates from 1000 and its variant bollocks from 1744. Bollix is close in pronunciation and related in meaning to bollocks although the former is used as a verb and the latter only as a noun. As a verb, bollix is akin to ball up ‘make a mess, bungle.’ The change in meaning from ‘testes’ to ‘confusion, nonsense’ is itself confusing and is a relatively development (late 19th century). Bollix and bollixed up date from the early 1900s.
Watch your script.… Yor’re getting your cues all bollixed up. (J. Weidman, I Can Get It For You Wholesale, 1937)
catch-as-catch-can See UNRESTRAINT.
confusion worse confounded See EXACERBATION.
go haywire To go out of control, to go awry, to run riot; to go crazy, to go berserk, to go out of one’s mind. One source hypothesizes that the phrase derived from the unmanageability of the wire used in binding bales of hay. More reputable sources see its origin in the adjective haywire ‘poor, rough, inefficient’ (from the use of haywire for makeshift or temporary repairs). The phrase dates from at least 1929.
Some of them have gone completely haywire on their retail prices. (The Ice Cream Trade Journal, September, 1948)
higgledy-piggledy In a confused state; topsy-turvy; helter-skelter. This amusing expression may have derived from the disheveled appearance of a pig sty.
In a higgledy-piggledy world like this it is impossible to make very nice distinctions between good luck and good work. (Daily News, January, 1890)
hugger-mugger See SECRECY.
hurrah’s nest A confused jumble, an unholy mess. The first recorded use of this expression (hurra’s nest) appears to have been in Samuel Longfellow’s biography of his poet-brother (1829). No clear explanation of its origin has been found, though it seems likely the term is related to the matted, tangled branches of the hurrah bush. S. W. Mitchell in an 1889 issue of Century Magazine parenthetically defined a hurrah’s nest as:
a mass of leaves left by a freshet in the crotch of the divergent branches of a bush.
By that time, however, the expression had already attained its figurative meaning.
Everything was pitched about in grand confusion. There was a complete hurrah’s nest. (R. H. Dana, Two Years Before the Mast, 1840)
kettle of fish A confusing, topsy-turvy state of affairs; a predicament; a contretemps. Literal use of this originally British expression refers to the kettle of fish served at a riverside picnic, and by extension, to the picnic itself.
It is customary for the gentlemen who live near the Tweed to entertain their neighbours and friends with a Fete Champetre, which they call giving “a kettle of fish.” Tents or marquees are pitched … a fire is kindled, and ive salmon thrown into boiling kettles. (Thomas Newte, A Tour in England and Scotland in 1785, 1791)
Some believe that kettle is a corruption of kiddle ‘a net placed in a river to catch fish.’ However, neither this suggestion nor the many other theories offered to account for the figurative use of kettle offish are plausible.
Fine doings at my house! A rare kettle of fish I have discovered at last. (Henry Fielding, The History of Tom Jones, 1749)
Fine, pretty, nice, and rare are frequently heard in describing kettle of fish. Ironic use of these adjectives serves to highlight the implied confusion and disorderliness.
make a hash of To botch, spoil, or make an unholy mess of. Hash is literally a hodgepodge of foods cooked together. By extension, it applies to any incongruous combination of things; and carried one step further, make a hash of is to inadvertently create a confused chaotic mess in an attempt to deal with the particulars of a situation or plan.
Lord Grey has made somewhat of a hash of New Zealand and its constitution. (R. M. Milnes Houghton, Life, Letters, and Friendships, 1847)
mare’s nest A state of confusion or disarray; a spurious and illusionary discovery. A mare’s nest would indeed be a bogus discovery since horses do not display nesting habits.
Colonel S.’s discovery is a mere mare’s nest. (Times, October, 1892)
Perhaps as an allusion to the bewilderment which would accompany the finding of a mare’s nest, the expression now denotes a jumbled or chaotic state of affairs.
no man’s land An area, literal or figurative, not under man’s control; a scene of chaos or disorder; a desolate, hostile, or uninhabitable tract of land.
Until the Dutchman Yermuyden came to the scene … to control … the river Great Ouse … much of the region was a marshy no-man’s-land through which … the only means of transport was by boat. (Country Life, June, 1975)
The expression is used in a similar sense to describe a land area sandwiched between two contending armies. Recently, however, no man’s land acquired the new figurative meaning of a sphere of human undertaking marked by complexity and confusion.
One question chased another … question that got lost in a no-man’s-land of conjecture. (H. Carmichael, Motive, 1974)
out of joint Disordered, confused; out of kilter. In literal use, this phrase describes a dislocated bone. Figuratively, out of joint applies to operations, conditions, and formerly, to individuals in relation to their behavior. The phrase has been in print since the early 15th century, and is especially well known from Shakespeare’s Hamlet:
The time is out of joint. Oh cursed spite
That ever I was born to set it right! (I, v)
pell-mell See IMPETUOUSNESS.
the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing Confusion, disorder, disarray. Now used derogatorily to indicate a lack of coordination, organization, or direction, in its original New Testament context (with hands reversed) the phrase denoted a desirable state. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells His listeners not to broadcast their good deeds, but to keep them to themselves:
But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: that thine alms may be in secret. (Matthew 6:2-4)
The current meaning apparently stems from the fact that in different circumstances keeping something to one-self is undesirable, leading to a lack of communication, which in turn brings on chaos, confusion, and disorganization.
topsy-turvy Upside-down, helter-skelter, in a state of utter confusion and disarray. The expression appeared in Shakespeare’s I Henry IV:
To push against a kingdom, with his help
We shall o’erturn it topsy-turvy over. (IV, i)
Although the expression is of obscure origin, etymologists have conjectured that its original form was topside, turna-way, from which evolved topside-turvy, and then finally topsy-turvy. The modern form, dating from 1528, retains its figurative meaning of dislocation or chaos.
A world of inconsistencies, where things are all topsy-turvy, so to speak. (Robert M. Ballantyne, Shifting Winds, 1866)
Past participle: disordered
|Noun||1.||disorder - a physical condition in which there is a disturbance of normal functioning; "the doctor prescribed some medicine for the disorder"; "everyone gets stomach upsets from time to time"|
immunological disorder - a disorder of the immune system
physical condition, physiological condition, physiological state - the condition or state of the body or bodily functions
functional disorder - disorder showing symptoms for which no physiological or anatomical cause can be identified
organic disorder - disorder caused by a detectable physiological or structural change in an organ
abocclusion - the condition in which the upper teeth do not touch the lower teeth when biting
abruptio placentae - a disorder of pregnancy in which the placenta prematurely separates from the wall of the uterus
achlorhydria - an abnormal deficiency or absence of free hydrochloric acid in the gastric juice; often associated with severe anemias and cancer of the stomach
acholia, cholestasis - a condition in which little or no bile is secreted or the flow of bile into the digestive tract is obstructed
acute brain disorder, acute organic brain syndrome - any disorder (as sudden confusion or disorientation) in an otherwise normal person that is due to reversible (temporary) impairment of brain tissues (as by head injuries or drugs or infection)
eating disorder - a disorder of the normal eating routine
bladder disorder - a disorder of the urinary bladder
cardiovascular disease - a disease of the heart or blood vessels
celiac disease - a disorder in children and adults; inability to tolerate wheat protein (gluten); symptoms include foul-smelling diarrhea and emaciation; often accompanied by lactose intolerance
cheilosis, perleche - a disorder of the lips marked by scaling and fissures at the corners of the mouth; caused by a deficiency of riboflavin
choking - a condition caused by blocking the airways to the lungs (as with food or swelling of the larynx)
colpoxerosis - a condition in which the vagina is unusually dry
degenerative disorder - condition leading to progressive loss of function
dysaphia - a disorder in the sense of touch
dysphagia - condition in which swallowing is difficult or painful
dysuria - painful or difficult urination
failure - loss of ability to function normally; "kidney failure"
fantods - an ill-defined state of irritability and distress
adenosis, gland disease, glandular disease, glandular disorder - a disorder of the glands of the body
hyperactivity - a condition characterized by excessive restlessness and movement
impacted tooth, impaction - a disorder in which a tooth is so crowded in its socket that it cannot erupt normally
impaction - a disorder in which feces are impacted in the lower colon
learning disability, learning disorder - a disorder found in children of normal intelligence who have difficulties in learning specific skills
malocclusion - (dentistry) a condition in which the opposing teeth do not mesh normally
idiopathic disease, idiopathic disorder, idiopathy - any disease arising from internal dysfunctions of unknown cause
folie, mental disorder, mental disturbance, psychological disorder, disturbance - (psychiatry) a psychological disorder of thought or emotion; a more neutral term than mental illness
metabolic disorder - a disorder or defect of metabolism
hydrocele - disorder in which serous fluid accumulates in a body sac (especially in the scrotum)
sleep disorder - a disturbance of the normal sleep pattern
strangulation - the condition of having respiration stopped by compression of the air passage
haematocolpos, hematocolpos - accumulation of menstrual blood in the vagina (usually due to an imperforate hymen)
|2.||disorder - a condition in which things are not in their expected places; "the files are in complete disorder"|
condition, status - a state at a particular time; "a condition (or state) of disrepair"; "the current status of the arms negotiations"
shambles - a condition of great disorder
untidiness - the condition of being untidy
mess, messiness, muss, mussiness - a state of confusion and disorderliness; "the house was a mess"; "she smoothed the mussiness of the bed"
disarrangement, disorganisation, disorganization - a condition in which an orderly system has been disrupted
|3.||disorder - a disturbance of the peace or of public order|
state - the way something is with respect to its main attributes; "the current state of knowledge"; "his state of health"; "in a weak financial state"
anarchy, lawlessness - a state of lawlessness and disorder (usually resulting from a failure of government)
instability - an unstable order
confusion - disorder resulting from a failure to behave predictably; "the army retreated in confusion"
commotion, hoo-ha, hoo-hah, hurly burly, kerfuffle, to-do, disruption, disturbance, flutter - a disorderly outburst or tumult; "they were amazed by the furious disturbance they had caused"
Sturm und Drang, upheaval, turbulence - a state of violent disturbance and disorder (as in politics or social conditions generally); "the industrial revolution was a period of great turbulence"
order - established customary state (especially of society); "order ruled in the streets"; "law and order"
|Verb||1.||disorder - disturb in mind or make uneasy or cause to be worried or alarmed; "She was rather perturbed by the news that her father was seriously ill"|
vex, worry - disturb the peace of mind of; afflict with mental agitation or distress; "I cannot sleep--my daughter's health is worrying me"
|2.||disorder - bring disorder to|
alter, change, modify - cause to change; make different; cause a transformation; "The advent of the automobile may have altered the growth pattern of the city"; "The discussion has changed my thinking about the issue"
throw out of kilter, derange, perturb - throw into great confusion or disorder; "Fundamental Islamicists threaten to perturb the social order in Algeria and Egypt"
disarrange - disturb the arrangement of; "disarrange the papers"
order - bring order to or into; "Order these files"
to be in disorder → estar en desorden
to retreat in disorder → retirarse a la desbandada