Green’s Dictionary of Slang

...short of... adj.

also ...shy of...
[var. on not all there adj.]

in combs., a phr. used to mean that someone is unstable or not very intelligent; in specified phrs. below but also in ad hoc combs.

Gibson City Courier (IL) 17 Oct. 4/6: A while back, I ran across some of these ‘lights on but nobody’s home’ type of statements. Here they are: The butter has slipped off his noodles. The spots have slipped off his dice. He ran one too many plays without a helmet. His driveway doesn't go all the way to the street. The mortar has slipped from his bricks. He's a few pickles short of a full jar. He's two bricks short of a full chimney. They are running a quart low. Three bricks shy of a full load. Riding shotgun with empty barrels. Not dragging a full stringer of fish. Has a few lights missing in the old marquee. His marbles are flat on one side. The propeller has slipped off his beanie. Has a leak in his marble bag. Splinters in the windmill of his mind. His dipstick isn't touching oil . . . or his oil is hinting the dipstick. Eating with one chopstick. Doesn't pack a full suitcase. Got one wheel in the sand. Ain't wrapped too tight. His pilot light went out. He's loose in his loafers.
[UK]I. Rankin Strip Jack 171: Sounds to me like he’s one domino shy of a set.
[Aus]Aus. Word Map [Internet] a couple of lamingtons short of a CWA meeting also means not the ‘full quid’, that is, not fully informed, a bit slow on the uptake (particularly with getting jokes) or a bit light-on in the intelligence department!
[UK]M. Dibdin Dying of the Light 115: With the exception of Alfred Purvey, who was definitely a few stamps short of the first-class rate, they proved to be considerably less gaga than Jarvis had feared.
[Ire]J. O’Connor Secret World of the Irish Male (1995) 39: Prince Charles is barking anyway. He is quite simply several chevrolets short of a funeral.
Albuqerque Jrnl (NM) 10 May 11/1: What are the distinctions among [...] two tacos short of a combination plate, two cans short of a six pack, a few chips short of a fish dinner, a few pickles short of a barrel, one hamburger short of a Happy Meal.
[US]G. Sikes 8 Ball Chicks (1998) 117: I was worried that Tricky might be a couple of bottles short of a six-pack.
[UK]Guardian 15 Apr. 35/5: I’v always suspected those [...] wrinklies ith lime green cagoules and a half-pound of Kendal mint-cake in their bum-bags were a couple of bottle banks short of a beauty spot.
[US]D.D. Brazill ‘Lady and the Gimp’ in Pulp Ink [ebook] ‘She’s amazing.’ [...] ‘Clearly a can short of a six-pack, but amazing nevertheless’.

In phrases

couple of chips short of... (also …a computer, ...a cookie, ...an order, couple of computer chips short of a complete circuit, few chips short (of a casino bet), several chips short of a butty, three chips short of a happy meal)

not very intelligent.

[[US]L.A. Times 1 Oct. 28/5: A man with all the earnmarks of a great player, but [...] a few chips short of National League class in ‘inside play’].
Leon Satterfield Truth, Mainly 26 Oct. [Internet] Perot has made far too much money to be worthy of very much trust and his quick withdrawal in July made him look pretty flaky, a couple of computer chips short of a complete circuit.
see sense 1
Santa Cruz Sentinel (CA) 29 Nov. 44/5: It must be obvious even to a borg with a few chips short of a circuit board that they didn’t succeed.
Penny ‘Delicacy’ on La Femme Fiction [Internet] All the stress and pressure of the job can cause you to become a few chips short of a cookie.
Linda Goin ‘Six Steps Away From the Bears’ on BuyAndHold [Internet] ‘Tell me again how you would keep the bears away, Cora.’ ‘WHAT bears, mom? Are you a few chips short of a computer, or what? Let’s go do something.’.
Dr Harry Lang ‘My Kingdom for Conservatism’ posting 8 Aug. at ABCOnline [Internet] It seems as though the whole world is going mad, loony, crazy, three chips short of a happy meal.
‘Chuckles Buckhouse’ Message 26 Mar. on Eastenders Message Board at LookUpUK.com [Internet] Is Zoe a couple of chips short of an order or what? Why the hell did they all stand by and watch the fool burn that cheque?
‘North Korea History’ at LonelyPlanet.com [Internet] His son, Kim Jong (the ‘Dear Leader’) took over the reins of power and [...] there was a general feeling that he wasn’t quite a chip off the old block; contrarily the general feeling was that he a few chips short of a casino bet [sic].
Player Profiles Womens’ XV TrojansRugby.co.uk [Internet] Hard as nails and several chips short of a butty.
[US]Chicago Trib. 14 Dec. 4/1: They have Ron Artest, who is a few chips short of the ante.
Laura profile at myspace.com About me: couple of chips short of a fish dinner, lift doesn’t reach the top floor, not the full cup of tea, out to lunch, wheel is turning but the hamster is dead.
couple of tinnies short of a slab (also couple of tinnies short of a six pack) [tinnie n. (1) + slab n. (12)]

(Aus.) eccentric, foolish, simple-minded.

[Aus] in Tasmanian Hansard 21 Oct. n.p.: Too many politicians, especially those greenies, are [...] ‘a couple of tinnies short of a six pack’.
‘Aussie Sl.’ at www.spacetrekkers.fcpages.com [Internet] couple of tinnies short of a slab – short on brains.
few bob short of the pound (also only eighteen bob in the pound)

unintelligent, eccentric.

[Aus]‘Nino Culotta’ Gone Fishin’ 90: I now ‘have a few clues’. I think I am no longer ‘only eighteen bob in the pound’.
[Aus]A. Chipper Aussie Swearers Guide 44: Not the Full Quid [...] only ten bob in the pound [...] worthless.
[Aus]G. Seal Lingo 127: There are [...] subtle gradations in the types of stupidity, thoughtlessness, hopelessness, incapacity and sheer ineptitude that may come in for verbal censure. A person may be: a few bob short of the pound.
few snags short of a barbie (also chop short of a barbie, couple of snags short of a barbie, few snags short at the barbie, …of a barbeque, one sausage short...) [snag, a sausage ]

(Aus.) eccentric, crazy.

[UK] in Australasian Express 6 July in DSUE (1984).
[NZ]McGill Dict. of Kiwi Sl. 105/1: a few snags short at the barbie not quite right in the head.
[Aus]Sydney Morn. Herald 30 Jan. 205/1: A group that’s always looking pretty moronic — or at least one sausage sshort of a barbie .
[Aus] in Tasmanian Hansard 21 Oct. n.p.: Too many politicians, especially those greenies, are [...] ‘a couple of snags short of a barbie’.
Diary of an Average Australian 16 Jan. [blog] But then, there’s also John Hurt as Caligula, looking physically healthier than his Elephant Man or Alien roles, but definitely a few snags short of a barbeque.
Alex Bartoli Rachel [Internet] I took them [i.e. clothes] without a word and headed for the changing room. They treated me as if I were a few snags short of a barbie.
[NZ]McGill Reed Dict. of N.Z. Sl. 47: chop short of a barbie, a Mentally deficient. ANZ.
few spring rolls short of a banquet (also few french fries short of a happy meal)

unintelligent, eccentric, mad.

Celestial Reviews 18 Nov. [Internet] If you believe that, then you’re a few french fries short of a Happy Meal.
[UK]Guardian G2 8 July 17: She was a few spring rolls short of a banquet.
ha’penny/ninepence short of a shilling

see under shilling n.

one brick short of a load (also brick short of a load, couple of bricks short of a load, few bricks short of a load, one brick shy of a load, two bricks shy of a load)

slightly insane, eccentric.

Arizona republic (Phoenix, AZ) 13 Aug. 148/1: ‘In order to be a stunt man [...] you kinda gotta be one brick short of a load, you know’.
[US]N.Y. Times 15 Oct. n.p.: There was something about the boy that bothered me, nothing I could put my finger on, but, as my boy says, kind of one brick shy of a load [R].
[US]L. Heinemann Paco’s Story (1987) 80: He musta been a couple bricks short of a load, because he never figured out that the [...] Fair is run by a couple cops’ wives.
[NZ]McGill Dict. of Kiwi Sl. 96/1: sandwich short of a picnic, a a brick short of a load.
[US]B. Black ‘Honkytonk Asshole’ in G. Logsdon Whorehouse Bells Were Ringing (1995) 277: They think I’m one brick shy a load.
St Louis Post-Dispatch (MS) 12 Sept. 43/2: The phrases ‘bats in your belfry’ and ‘going batty’ were coined to describe a person one brick short of a full load.
[US]Da Bomb [Internet] 30: Two bricks shy of a load; Not all there.
[US]The Amusive Network Humorplanet.com [Internet] ‘Unsubscribing from the Joke A Day List’: You’re nuts. You’re insane. You’re a few bricks short of a load. You’ve lost your marbles. The lights are on but nobody’s home.
[US]C. Cook Robbers (2001) 131: World full of nuts. Some of them with guns, one brick short of a load.
Desert Sun (Palm Springs, CA) 2 July 62/3: You’re almost never one brick short of a load. Know what I’m saying?
one sandwich short of a picnic (also half a sandwich short of a picnic..., pork pie..., sandwich…, sarnie…, two biscuits…, two sandwiches…)

not very intelligent, slightly eccentric, odd.

[US]Maledicta IX 93: He’s a sandwich short of a picnic.
[UK]J. Cameron It Was An Accident 8: You got to be a sandwich short of a picnic, George.
[UK]J. Baker King of the Streets (1999) 170: He’s like mental, you know. Two sandwiches short of a picnic.
[US]The Amusive Network Humorplanet.com [Internet] ‘Unsubscribing from the Joke A Day List’: You’re nuts. You’re insane. [...] You’re two biscuits short of a picnic. Your elevator doesn’t go all the way to the top floor.
[UK]N. Griffiths Grits 354: Nice feller, Paul, but a bit thick; sarnie short uv a picnic like.
[UK]Observer Screen 13 Feb. 24: Bad enough to contain the line: ‘He’s a pork pie short of a picnic’.
[US]J. Lerner You Got Nothing Coming 192: My client is not just a sandwich short of a picnic, he’s a picnic short of a picnic.
[UK]N. ‘Razor’ Smith Raiders 254: Though Keith was technically mad he was one sandwich short of a picnic and a little slow on the uptake.
[UK]J.J. Connolly Viva La Madness 383: Madness isn’t for kids [...] Isn’t one sandwich short of a picnic.
[Aus] A. Nette ‘Chasing Atlantis’ in Crime Factory: Hard Labour [ebook] Nice kid [...] but half a sandwich short of a picnic if you know what I mean.
one sausage short of a barbecue

(US teen) not very intelligent, slightly eccentric, odd.

[Aus]Jennifer ‘Australian Sl. Phrases’, Jennifer’s Jibberish [Internet] Sausage Short of a barbecue ..... short of brains.
one stop short of East Ham (also one stop from Barking) [pun on London Underground stop Barking / barking adj.]

mad, eccentric.

[US]Spectator (London) 22 Feb. [Internet] She goes for men who [...] fall in love with their insects, who build home-made rockets and who go busspotting; in short, men who reveal themselves to be one stop short of East Ham. Barking.
[UK]Guardian 11 Jan. 2: We call him East Ham, because he’s one stop from Barking.
posting at forums.fedoraforum.org 20 June [Internet] You might not understand the filesystem yet – but once you do, you’ll see why your current recommendations are one stop short of East Ham.
two pence short of a bob [a bob n.3 (2) was composed of 12 pence]

not very intelligent, slightly eccentric, odd.

Rufus Jones ‘Iraq’s Crazy Uncle’ on Daily Standard [Internet] Or is he certifiable, driving-with-one’s-lights-on-dim, two-pence-short-of-a-bob crazy?
two tacos short of a combination plate

(US) not very intelligent, slightly eccentric, odd.

[US]Wash. Post 30 July A1: He told the nominee to expect ‘loose facts, nastiness, hype, hoorah, maybe a little bit of hysteria’ and to ‘be prepared to hear himself described as a racist, extremist, trampler of the poor, assassin of the First Amendment...and a crazed young law clerk who was about two tacos short of a combination plate.’.
[US] in Wash. Post 23 Feb. A18: As we say in Wyoming, their reporting is about two tacos short of a combination plate.
see sense 1
two wafers short of a communion (also couple of...)

not very intelligent, slightly eccentric, odd.

[UK]Independent 14 July [Internet] They are visited by a priest who warns them that Satan patrols this patch of land – though the priest seems a few wafers short of a communion, so this news may or may not be true.
[UK]J. Meades Pompey 269: He was a couple of wafers short of a communion (if you ask me, May Butt).
posting at p201.ezboard.com 24 Mar. [Internet] yeah i think she has a tile loose, [...] is two wafers short of a communion, the wheel is turning but the hamsters dead, to put it bluntly, theres a kangaroo loose in the top paddock.
[UK]Times 3 July [Internet] One may very well wonder how a man who is clearly a few wafers short of a communion ever got to occupy such an exalted position.