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Car that loooks pretty ordinary on the outside but had hidden bells and whistles; eg, souped-up engine

A quick Googling suggests that the term is coming to have a broader meaning, that is, anything ordinary on the outside but extraordinary inside

Any further input appreciated--Thanks guys
 
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Dale, I have heard of that meaning. Here is a interesting link about different meanings of the word.
 
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The term seems to have extended from the usage of "sleeper agent", to "somone who isn't what they appear". I'm not really sure I would ever use this word in the context describe. I would describe the car as deceptive. In sports, a sleeper is typically a team not seeded very well, but who analysts think could go far. A lot of times they will first pick favorites, and then pick sleepers. For example, in baseball, this would allow you to have a selection which wasn't the YankSox.
 
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My brother was into souped-up cars some thirty years ago. I think he used the term then.


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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<Asa Lovejoy>
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I thought it was a Pullman car on a train.
 
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k: Thank you most kindly for that link. I have ensconced it amongst my Faves

But has anyone heard the term used in the more general sense, which hasn't yet found its way into the usu dictionaries
 
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I've heard it used for a really boring lecture...that was a real "sleeper!" Does that count?
 
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As a hot rodder in the UK I'm perfectly familiar with the term as it is applied to modified cars. The first defination is correct. Some of the cars I've seen are not just ordinary looking but positively shabby- even a little rusty! But underneath are all fully uprated mechanicals. Works well on an American car, works even better on an English or European car- preferably something fairly innocuous looking, like a Morris Minor, perhaps.
 
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I agree with Erik. I spoke to my brother over the weekend and mentioned the use of "sleeper" when referring to bog-standard-looking but heavily modified cars. It was perfectly familiar to him but we both agreed we'd never heard it used in the figurative sense suggested by Dale.

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Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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arnie: I suspect that the sense to which I allude is not considerded a separate usage but only an impromptu extension of the usu meaning

PS: There's a word for such usage, but I can't think of it
 
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quote:
word for such usage, but I can't think of it
Metaphor?


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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<Asa Lovejoy>
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quote:
Originally posted by Erik Johansen:
Works well on an American car, works even better on an English or European car- preferably something fairly innocuous looking, like a Morris Minor, perhaps.


Some years back Porsche-engined Volkswagens were not rare around here, and there was an MG Midget MkII with a 1600cc Alfa Romeo stuffed into it. And way back in the 1960s I owned a Renault 4-CV that was capable of 105mph. Not too shabby for 750cc, but SCARY AS HELL! Big Grin
 
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arn: More like "trope," but that isn't quite right either
 
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I suppose the word needed depends on what the aspect, of this usage, you refer to.

Could you be thinking of antonomasia?
 
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nerd: What I'm looking for is an expr to describe the use of a word in an imaginiative or impromptu way that doesn't exactly match its dict defs

For example: Sleeper: an object that looks like a banana on the outside but when peeled turns out to be a dill pickle or a roll of $100 bills
 
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