You never know there's no knowing (telling)

But you can't ever tell what we're going to run into. (M. W.)

Of course, there's a chance. One can't tell! (S. L.) You never know what anybody's going to say and do next. (J. P.)

"Let women into your plans, " pursued Soames, "and you never know where it'll end." (J. G.) Why, there's no knowing what you'll be able to do with it. (C. S.)

What are you driving at? What are you up to?also express ignorance of someone's intention.

What are you driving at? Are you crazy? (A. Chr.) Goodness gracious! What are you up to? (A. Chr.)

He knows no better (He doesn't know any better) is a

comment on ignorant behaviour. This is an excuse for
a person who unwittingly does some wrong.

It was all my fault. These people don't know
any better, but I do. (A. C.)

Brett, She's still young mama.

Bella. Young and no good.

Brett. She doesn't know any better. (D. R.)

Incomprehension and inability to understand use these


I don't (quite) get you (it).

I don't quite follow you.

I can't follow you (it).

I don't quite see (what you mean; why...).

I don't quite understand.

He hesitated: "I don't quite get you." (C. S.). The young man frowned. "I simply don't get it." (A. Chr.) I beg your pardon, I didn't quite get you. (A.Chr.) I'm afraid, Mr. Serrocold, that I don't quite follow you. (A. Chr.) They talked about various topics he didn't quite follow... (R. A.) I don't quite see what you mean. (A. Chr.) "I don't quite see why they tried to fix the blame on John, " I remarked. (A. Chr.) I'm afraid I don't quite see what all this has to do with it. (B. R.) By the way, Mr. Anderson, I do not quite understand. (B. Sh.)

Other phrases similarly used include the following:

I can't make head or tail of it. I can't understand it in

the least.

Linnet thought she saw a telegram for her sticking up on the board. So she tore it open, couldn't make head or tail of it... (A. Chr.)

it beats me I can't understand :

"This thing beats me, " he whispered. "I don't see

through it a bit." (S. L.)

"How you can stand that old fool beats me, "

said Ferguson gloomily. (A. Chr.)

...it beats me what set you looking there.

(A. Chr.)

How he could be such a fool beats me! (A. Chr.)

I'm all at sea. I'm unable to understand, in a state of ignorance about circumstances, situation, etc.

"Have you any theories?" he asked the sergeant. "I am all at sea, sir, " the other told him. (A. Der.)

Ican't make it (him) out. I can't understand it (him).

There's one thing I can't make out, why didn't he destroy it at once when he got hold of it? (A. Chr.)

I am sure I never can make out what you are talking about. (O. W.)

Complete misunderstanding (of a situation) is colloquially

expressed thus:

to get it all wrong to misunderstand it completely

"I know, " he rubbed his forehead. "I got things all wrong." (A. Chr.)

To get the wrong end of the stickhas the same significance.

Her eyes flashed angrily. "You've got the wrong end of the stick, " she said. (A. Chr.)

Some proverbs dealing with ignorance are:

Where ignorance is bliss, 'tis folly to be wise.(As long as

one remains in ignorance of certain unpleasant events he is

likely to be happy sometimes it is better not to know

the unpleasant truth.)

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.


Colloquial phrases for to irritate, to annoyinclude the


to get on one's nerves to irritate, to annoy

Oh, dear, no. Ernest is invariably calm. That is

one of the reasons he always gets on my nerves.

(O. W.)

Joanna amuses me, but I don't really like her,

and to have her around much gets on my nerves.

(A. Chr.)

Don't let Peter get on your nerves, sweetheart.

I'd almost forgotten him. (V. L.)

to get under somebody's skin to irritate

As a rule I was not touchy, but Howard had a knack of getting under my skin. (C. S.) The truth is, we all get under his skin particularly Gina, of course. (A. Chr.) "I reckon that got under their skins, " he said, rubbing his hands together. "That made them think." (N. C.)

to put someone's back up to irritate, to antagonise
to get one's back up to become irritated

She seemed perfectly self-possessed, but I had

a notion that she was sizing me up. To tell you

the truth it put my back up. (S. M.)

Oh, bother! There: don't be offended, old chap.

What's the use of putting your back up at every

trifle? (B. Sh.)

They were rather reserved and you couldn't help

seeing that they liked their own society better

than other people's. I don't know if you've

noticed it, but that always seems to put people's back up. (S. M.)

"Whew!" said Simon. "You've put the old boy's back up." (A. Chr.)

to rub (stroke) someone the wrong way to irritate him

Whatever I say these days seems to rub him

up the wrong way. (W. B.)

His tactless questions rubbed her the wrong

way. (K. H.)

to get one's goat to annoy, to exasperate

"You only say that, Daddy, to get my goat." "And only because your goat is so easy to get." (L. A.)

What's wrong with England is Snobbishness. And if there's anything that gets my goat it's a snob. (S. M.)

to give someone the pip to annoy

Women drivers often give me the pip. (A. W.)

That gives me the pip. (A. H.)

His wish-wash gives me the pip. (K. H.)

to get (take) a rise out of someone to annoy, to tease him; to act in such a way that he gives a display of bad temper, shows annoyance (or other weakness)

He said those unpleasant things to get a rise out of you. (A. H.)

To be annoyed or vexed is colloquially speaking: to be put out (about something or with somebody) to be annoyed, irritated

She missed it yesterday at lunch-time, sir, and told me to look carefully for it. She was very much put out about it. (A. Chr.)

"Do you mind telling me if they're much put out with her?" "My people?" "Apparently not, " said Ronnie... (B. R.)

An irritated person (or his nerves) may be said to be on edge

(to be irritable; to be in a state of nervous tension).

"Strange things happen there."

"This is getting on my nerves, " said the doctor...

Her nerves too were on edge. (S. M.)

"Take it easy, Larry, we're both a little on edge."

(M. W.)

to be (to get) sore (about something, at someone) to be

(to become) annoyed, vexed, hurt, aggrieved

"And you are not sore, any more?" he asked.

She turned and shook her head tenderly as if he

were hopeless.

"No, " she said, and it was her supreme understatement. "I'm not sore." (M. W.)

"What are you getting sore about?" White demanded. (M. W.)

"Don't get sore at me, " he said. "It's not my fault."

(M. W.)

to be fed up (with) to be utterly bored with and tired of (This is rather slangy.)

He said in a grating tone: "I'm fed up" "What?" cried Tom. "I'm fed up with being talked about." (C. S.)

To be (get) sick and tired of to be (become) annoyed, tired of, disgusted with. Also: to be sick to death of; to be deadly sick of.

"I'm sick and tired of going over stuff you know as well as I do, " said Howard... (C. S.) It was interesting enough at first, while we were at the phonetics; but after that I got deadly sick of it. (B. Sh.)

Exasperation, annoyance and irritation may be expressed by

these exclamations and phrases:


Such a bore! What a bore! What a nuisance! Oh, bother!

How annoying! How vexing! How awful! Etc.


(it's) enough to drive a man to drink; (it's) enough to try

the patience of a saint (of Job); enough to make a saint swear; (it's) enough to make you tear your hair.

What a nuisance their turning us out of the club at

this time! (0. W.)

"It is such a bore putting on one's dress clothes, "

muttered Hallward. (O. W.)

"Listen: will you dine with me to-night?"

"Darling, I'm so sorry, but I simply can't. I've an

appointment I simply must keep. Such a bore!"

"Such a bore, as you say!" (R. A.)

Oh, bother! There: don't be offended, old chap.

What's the use of putting your back up at every

trifle? (B. Sh.)

Having his house constantly full of gossiping

women is enough to drive a man to drink. (W. B.)

The remonstrances... I have received... have been

enough to make a saint swear. (Fr. M.)

Irritation may be also expressed by using the phrase on earth after the interrogative word of a question: Why on earth...? What on earth...? How on earth...? Where on earth...? Etc.

What on earth's he doing out here?" Tim asked.

His mother laughed. "Darling, you sound quite

excited." (A. Chr.)

What! Why on earth should you say that? (B. R.)

Why on earth didn't you say so before? (W. B.)


Thorough knowledge (understanding) of a thing (person) is

expressed by these phrases in common use:

to know something (somebody) like the palm of one's hand

to know thoroughly

Everything that can be done is being done, you needn't worry about that. Martin knows the place like the palm of his hand. (C. S.)

"You are what we Mr. Poirot".

call 'quick in the uptake',

"Ah, that, it leaps to the eye!" (A. Chr.) She was not at all shy, and she asked me to cal her Sally before we'd known one another ten minutes, and she was quick in the uptake. (S. M.)

Some general phrases of understanding are:

to know what is what to have proper knowledge of

the world and of things in general

He isn't such a fool as They took him for. He

knows what is what. (N. C.)

"And that won't wash!" said Trager. "He knows

what is what." (V. L.)

Never you mind. It shows you know what is what.

(S. M.)

to know the ropes to be thoroughly familiar with the details of any occupation; to be worldly and sophisticated

"Did he find it easy?"

'"I expect he knew the ropes." (C. 5.)

Mr. Bart said not to worry. And he's smart. He

knows the ropes. (N. C.)

to know a thing or two to have practical ability and

common sense

You needn't have to worry about her. She'll be a help too. Not just a bleeding drag. She knows a thing or two already, not like Doris. (N. C.)

He wasn't born yesterday! He is not a fool, he is a shrewd and knowing person.

The new Headmaster will stand no nonsense from anybody. He wasn't born yesterday, I can tell you. (W. B.)

to know on which side one's bread is buttered to know where one's interests lie

Bosinney looked clever, but he had also and it was one of his great attractions an air as if he

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did not quite know on which side his bread were buttered; he should be easy to deal in money matters. (J. G.)

Mary often stays with her old uncle and keeps house for him. He is very rich, and she knows on which side her bread is buttered. (K. H.)

to know better (than...) to be wise enough not to...

My father would talk morality after dinner. I told him he was old enough to know better. But my experience is that as soon as people are old enough to know better, they don't know anything at all. (O. W.) She ought to know better than to ask him. (A. Chr.)

to get to know to become acquainted

"Well, well, " he said, "we want to get to know our new friends, don't we, Mother?" (N. C.) He is all right when you get to know him. (J. P.) Compared to John, he was an astoundingly difficult person to get to know. (A. Chr.) Was there any way of getting to know where Hetty was? (V. L.)

Understanding is often colloquially expressed by these verbs: to see,especially in I see(I understand), to get and to catch (on).

"A man?" asked Esa.

"Man or woman it is the same."

"I see." (J. P.)

"I see what you mean, " said Mr. Satterthwaite.

(A. Chr.)

"Then tie my wrist up to my shoulder somehow, as

hard as you can. Do you get that? Tie up both

my arms."

"Yes, I get it." (J. Ald.)

"All right, " said Percy. "I get you." Mr. Basks,

however, could see that he hadn't got him. (N. C.)

Do you catch my meaning? (A. H.)

An amusing phrase meaning a belated act of comprehension


The penny's dropped,(i. e. He's at last got my meaning.)

Two common sayings commenting on knowledge:

Knowledge is power. (The more a man knows, the greater

power he has.)

Live and learn. (As long as you live there'll be new things

to learn. This is usually said by someone who has just

learned something which he did not know before.)

"But Mummy, I had no idea you were so immoral!" "We live and learn" (L. A.)



The idea of making a mistake is present in the following

phrases in common use:

to put one's foot in it to commit a blunder

Sir George mopped his moist forehead. "I'm afraid

I've put my foot in it." (C. D.)

That's why I haven't moved till now, sir. It is

the sort of a case a man might well put his foot in.

(V. L.)

Why did you ask Smith how his wife is when you

know she's left him? You are always putting

your foot in it. (A. W.)

I'm sorry if I put my foot in it, Miss Morris.

(B. R.)

Wendy? Well, he had put his foot in it now, even

if he didn't know it. (V. L.)

to drop a brick to make a bad mistake, especially to make a stupid and indiscreet social mistake

I dropped a brick by inquiring after her husband, not knowing that she was divorced last year. (K. H.)

"Whatever happens, " Mickael thought, " I've got to keep my head shut, or I shall be dropping a brick." (J. G.)

At dinner I lit a cigarette before the host had given permission. That was only the first of many bricks I dropped that evening. (W. B.)

Miscalculation uses the following phrases:

to bark up the wrong tree to act under a mistake; to

blame the wrong person or thing

But because I like you and respect your pluck I'll do you a good turn before we part. I don't want you to waste time barking up the wrong tree. (St.) (Ch).

If you think your driver was responsible for the accident, you are barking up the wrong tree. (K. H.)

to back the wrong horse to misplace one's trust

In voting for the Republicans you backed the wrong horse, since they lost thousands of votes

(K. H.)

His promises came to nothing. I'm afraid we've backed the wrong horse this time. (W. B.)

Over-estimating one's strength:

to bite off more than one can chew to try to achieve something beyond one's power; to underestimate the difficulties

He works overtime, attends evening classes, and studies French; I think he bit off more than he can chew. (K.. H.)

Over-estimating one's chances:

to count one's chickens before they are hatched to be too

hopeful of one's chances

I'm not counting my chickens before they're hatched, Simon. I tell you Linnet won't let us down! (A. Chr.)

"Dinny will have two boys and a girl." "Deuce she will! That's counting her chickens rather fast." (J. G.)

: 2016-06-09

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