the smell of the lamp

the smell of the lamp

Signs of arduous, overwrought effort, with an absence of 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 has the smell of the lamp about it.
See also: lamp, of, smell
References in periodicals archive ?
is that there is the smell of the lamp about it: it may reflect the tastes of the judges and dons who advance it, rather than the real preferences of the commonality of mortals." Robert McCloskey, "Economic Due Process and the Supreme Court: An Exhumation and Reburial," Supreme Court Review (1962): 34, 46.