Eager Beaver

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Meaning of Idiom 'Eager Beaver'

An eager beaver is a person who is very enthusiastic and zealous about work or responsibility; one who is eager to impress and take on extra responsibility. 1,2,3

Usage

This idiom, although it may be used as a compliment, may tend to be condescending. You would never call someone in a position of authority or power an "eager beaver" for instance, instead of "hard worker."

Examples:

"Aren't you an eager beaver?" said Mr. Tomlinson to his new assistant.

"That new guy in the mail room is a real eager beaver. He's been coming in early and staying late every day."

Origin

Used since the first half of the 1900's, [1] the idiom alludes to the hardworking and industrious nature of beavers, who work constantly to build and improve their underwater dwellings. Here "eager" means enthusiastic our zealous (perhaps overzealous). The continued use of the expression probably has much to do with the near rhyme. Bees are hardworking and industrious as well, but "eager bee" lacks the pleasing similarity in sounds.

Sources
1. Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013.
2. Kirkpatrick, Elizabeth M. The Wordsworth Dictionary of Idioms. Ware: Wordsworth, 1995.
3. Ayto, John. Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms. Oxford: Oxford U, 2010.

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