queer as a clockwork orange

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Cockney phrase from East London indicating something bizarre internally, but appearing natural and normal on the surface. Author Anthony Burgess appropriated the phrase for the title of his novella A Clockwork Orange.

(This etymology is missing or incomplete. Please add to it, or discuss it at the Etymology scriptorium. Particularly: “Anything more about the origin of the term than 'from East London'?”)


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queer as a clockwork orange

  1. (simile) Strange, odd, unusual.
  2. (simile) Unusually camp, unusually homosexual.
    • 1997, Tony Harrison, quoted in Sandie Byrne's introduction to Tony Harrison: Loiner (ed Sandie Byrne, 1997)
      He sauntered the flunkied restaurant, queer /As a clockwork orange and not scared. /God, I was grateful for the nights we shared.



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  • Dominic Head (2002) The Cambridge Introduction to Modern British Fiction, 1950-2000: “(footnote) Morrison observes that the title is taken from a Cockney expression, 'as queer as a clockwork orange' which means 'very queer indeed', with or without a sexual implication.”