My favorite line from a Hallmark Channel romcom movie was spoken by a wealthy titled gentleman. He had finally realized that the non-titled American nanny was more worthy of his son than the superficial and scheming Lady Sniffensnob. He rebuked Lady S with: “It seems to me that you’re the one who is all fur coat and no knickers.” This was a Maggie Smith/Lady Violet-type put-down worthy of an episode of Downton Abbey. (I will so miss that show…)
Then there was the political cartoon with a diminutive Donald Trump under an enormous sombrero, posted the week after he made his trip to Mexico. It was captioned: “All hat and no cattle.” It’s part of a Trace Adkins lyric that also includes “All boots and no saddle.” Most certainly, the song refers to a Stetson and not a sombrero, which made the cartoon even funnier.
The point being driven home in both of these expressions was that there’s an elaborate façade, but little substance or action to back it up. Flashy equipment, but no skill behind it. I’ve put together some more examples.
Sports offer rich potential for this type of idiom; here are just a few.
All dribble and no swish.
All pompoms and no cartwheels.
All putter but no short game.
All tutu and no en pointe.
And one that's just too obvious to resist:
All bat but no balls.
Next we have ones that I call “aspirational.” Most are appropriate for men and women alike, but if your mind works anything like mine, the first one might seem all male.
A huge corkscrew but an empty decanter.
A flashy sports car in a run-down garage.
A Weber grill with ground chuck burgers. (This is my variation of “all sizzle and no steak.”)
Red-soled shoes* with a duck waddle.
*The signature of designer Christian Louboutin
How about some for the musicians among us.
A Yamaha 82Z sax with a plastic mouthpiece.
A Fender Stratocaster that doesn’t know jack.
A Stradivarius played with a birch tree bow. (Think Deliverance.)
A Selmer clarinet for a buck-toothed overbite.
Let’s close with ones that are inspired by the presidential election.
All podium and no speech.
All cross-talk and no moderator. (OK. That’s not even an idiom, but I couldn’t resist sharing it.)
A big rally with a lot of “Really?”
A loud bullhorn and a lot of bull. (Again, not an idiom. My bad.)
All pomp and no circumstance.