"Busier than a one-armed paper hanger” is one way to say that someone is very busy. “Busier than a one-armed paper hanger with the hives” was cited in print in 1907. The saying is now infrequently used and is regarded as politically incorrect.
“Busier than a one-legged man in an ass kicking contest” is a similar saying.
5 May 1907, The Sunday News (Charleston, SC), “Base Ball Fame Hard to Attain,” pg. 17, col. 1:
If you would succeed in base ball when you get on the field you want to keep busier than a one-armed paper hanger with the hives.
24 June 1907, The News and Courier (Charleston, SC), “Advice To Young Ball Players,” pg. 6, col. 5:
So you stick right on the job, and keep busier than a one-armed bill poster with the itch, working in a high wind.
26 June 1908, The Arizona Republican (Phoenix, AZ), pg. 6 col. 4:
The restaurants are preparing for the serving of an unusually large crowd and one is likely to e busier than a one-armed man with the seven-year itch.
8 June 1910, The Salt Lake Tribune (Salt Lake City, UT), “‘Strictly Fresh’ Eggs Down to Thirty-five,” pg. 17, col. 4:
The vender who offered the stupendous “bargain” was busier than a one-armed billposter in a gale of wind for a few minutes supplying customers, who fairly fought with each other to get to the counter.
January 1921, Boys’ Life, “Not in the Curriculum” by G. G. L., pg. 12, col. 1:
It looks as though you were going to be about as busy as the Prince of Wales was when he was visiting in New York, and he was busier than a one armed paper hanger with St. Vitus dance.
1 October 1921, The Saturday Evening Post, pg. 19, col. 1:
Seriously I wish you success with your next song and I laughed when I read your remark about being busier than a one armed paper hanger. I don’t see how you think up all those comparisons and crazy things to say.
busier than a one armed paper hanger
To be so busy, it will be impossible to finish your task.
Bob: “Hey pal, can you give me a hand with this task.”
You: “Are you serious?” “Im busier than a one armed paper hanger.”
by Frainslug November 04, 2005
In a Manner of Speaking:
Phrases, Expressions, and Proverbs and How We Use and Misuse THem
By Colin McNairn
New York, NY: Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.
Some absurd images carry an overtone of mockery. When we describe someone as “busier than a one-armed paper-hanger” or “busier than a one-legged man at an ass kicking contest,” we risk giving offence. Because they draw attention to the limitations resulting from certain physical disabilities, these expressions are sometimes viewed as politically incorrect and, therefore, to be avoided.