smell of the lamp

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smell of the lamp

To show the signs of arduous, overwrought effort, and to lack freshness or vitality as a result. (Said especially of academic or literary work.) His thesis is meticulously crafted, but the paragraphs are so dry and calculated, and the paper lacks any flourish or style. As a whole, it rather smells of the lamp to me.
See also: lamp, of, smell
References in periodicals archive ?
To her well-rounded cast Russell adds period details that breathe life into the novel without ever smelling of the lamp.