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More Rabbit Than Sainsburys

There is an old British saying "More Rabbit Than Sainsburys". Obviously the famous supermarket Sainsburys is included, but why? And why "Rabbit"? And what does it all mean? Well, here's an attempt at an explanation:

If someone is said to have "more rabbit than Sainsburys", it means that they talk a lot. Typically they talk incessantly, and typically with more quantity than quality of verbiage. A person might be "rabbiting on" about a subject, which would mean they would be having a rant.

Rabbits are not known for saying much themselves, except perhaps in interesting surrealist works of fiction such as Donnie Darko and Alice in Wonderland, so why is it RABBIT that's chosen to refer to TALK. Apparently, it's because it's Cockney rhyming slang, "rabbit and pork" = "talk". Rabbit and pork were two of the most popular meats a long time ago, an although pork has maintained its popularity, rabbit has become less popular over the years. The main reason for this is that rabbit butchery is less cost-effective. It's a skilled job, and the butcher has to take a dead animal that's about the size of a cat, and turn it into something that the customer can buy, take home, cook, and eat. But as the amount of meat on a rabbit is so small, the job has to be done quickly so as to cover the cost of the labour.

Well I dare say that real-life action-man Bear Grylls* would not worry about this at all, and would be very pleased to have ensnared a rabbit and be quite keen to put a bit of time into preparing it and roasting it over a campfire. However, in the commercial world of modern shop cuisine, time and labour costs are of the essence.

Going back to the matter of Sainsburys, a while ago, when rabbit and pork were both popular meats that customers would regularly buy, Sainsburys used to have hung up, rows and rows of them, so customers could examine the quality, and this image has stuck in the mind.

Please bear in mind, if you are a meat-eater, you have to accept that the meat comes from animals, which live and then die (hopefully humanely) and then the dead animal is turned into meat by a skilled professional known as a butcher. Yet, some people have gone into denial about this sort of thing, and rabbits have somehow become associated with cute and cuddly bunnies, rather than something to be put on the plate! Chickens haven't been so lucky.

So anyway, as Sainsburys was the place where rabbits were to be seen in large quantities, it stands to reason that if someone had "more rabbit than Sainsburys" then they must logically have a very large amount of "rabbit". This neglects the fact that the type of rabbit the loquacious verbose person had was different to the type of rabbit that Sainsburys had, the former being of the type "rabbit and pork = talk", and the latter being of the type "quality meat on sale".

A few years ago I went into a large Sainsburys store in London and I asked a helpful member of staff a curious question. I said "This might sound an odd question to ask, but... do you have any rabbit?". Well, the Sainsburys staff member, who knew well the stock of goods of the establishment they worked for, answered with perfect certainty "No". The word seemed to echo through the halls of the great store, almost like going to a great cathedral and asking the archbishop "Do you believe in God?" and getting the response "No".

I pointed out the context, the origin of the expression "more rabbit than Sainsburys" and I remember at some point having a discussion with someone in charge of the butchery department (which still stocked some fine lines of beef, pork, lamb, poultry, and many other delicacies and quality nutritious meat). Yes, it is true that Sainsburys used to stock rabbit, and were famous for it, but it had fallen out of fashion, partly because people thought that rabbits were too cute to eat, but also because the time required to prepare a rabbit made it less economical than in the old days. It was also almost as if the art of rabbit butchery was a skill and a lost art, going the way of that of the wheelwright, cooper (barrel-maker), and lead-craftsman (previously referred to as "plumber").

So, in essence, here is a summary of the salient points in this explanation of the phrase "more rabbit than Sainsburys":

1. Sainsburys used to be a place where a lot of rabbit meat was on sale.

2. Cockney rhyming slang "rabbit and pork" = "talk". Therefore "to rabbit" = "to talk a lot".

3. Type mismatch of the type of "rabbit".

Well that just about sums it up, even though it has taken a lot of rabbiting-on to accomplish this. Incidentally, we have an affiliate program with Sainsburys, and although there's no rabbit there, there is a large range of other stuff, which you can buy online, which is something you couldn't do in the old days!

Also, the tables have turned in favour of the people who have a lot to say, because these days your material can be turned into a website and can be put online and used for the edification and enlightenment of all, as well as for making money. So, if you have critics accusing you of having "more rabbit than Sainsburys", you can put your rabbitings online and enter a world where the lucid, not the taciturn, have the advantage.

* Bear Grylls is also mentioned at this site's own page Bear Grylls Store