What Does White On Rice Mean?

Like White on Rice Meaning

Definition: Extremely near to something.

People use this to mean physically close, but they also use it to mean closely involved with something.

Origin of Like White on Rice

Sources speculate that this expression originated sometime in the 1900s and saw a large increase in use post-1980. It comes from the color of rice. The color of rice, and rice itself, are so closely intertwined that they are inextricable.

If you are on someone like white on rice, you are watching that person closely.

Examples of Like White on Rice

like white on rice originThis example shows two college students using the idiom while discussing an unwelcome acquaintance.

Frank: That girl, Molly, keeps trying to hang out with me again.

Karl: Just try to avoid her.

Frank: I’d like to avoid her, but she’s always with me. She’s always on me like white on rice. I don’t think that she’ll leave me alone unless I tell her directly that I need more space.

white on rice sayingIn this example, two friends are discussing the relationship one of them has with her parents.

Lily: I’m sorry if I seem a little rude today. I’m in a bad mood because both of my parents are coming to visit.

Grace: Why would that put you in a bad mood? Don’t you like having your parents visit you?

Lily: Yes, I do like having them visit for many reasons. However, there are also some reasons that make me dislike their visits.

Grace: Like what?

Lily: For example, my parents are both very fastidious about keeping the house clean. If I forget to make my bed in the morning, or if I don’t immediately clean my plates after I’m done eating, they’re both on me like white on rice.

Grace: What do you mean by that?

Lily: I mean they both immediately start nagging me to tidy up.

More Examples

The excerpt below is from an article about local politics.

  • Yet Wilson was one of the board leaders for the massive union pension spike in 2004. He obviously didn’t spend much time researching his investment there. Ah, won’t it be nice to have a board with principled, straight-up members? No wonder the unions are jumping on this minor controversy like white on rice. –OC Register

This excerpt is from an article about tenants in an apartment building who did not have any gas.

“As soon as we get the violations, we’re on top of that like white on rice,” Devivo said. Asked why tenants had no gas for seven months, she said, “The reason it took so long is CASA was instructing (tenants) not to give access to certain apartments.” –New York Daily News


The expression like white on rice means heavily interested in or working closely with.  It can also mean very nearby.