Not to know if one is standing on one's head or one's heels

to be confused; not to know how to act or what to do (say)

I don't know whether I'm on my head or my heels when you all start on me like this. (B. Sh.) I got information so contradictory that I didn't know whether I stood on my head or my heels. (K. H.)

Not to know what to do for the best and not to know whether one is coming or going are also similarly used.

If I leave her I know she'll ask for me. But if

I stay she'll only find fault with me. I don't know

what to do for the best. (W. B.)

He doesn't know whether he is coming or going.

(W. B.)

Oh, this is awful. I don't know what to do for

the best.

b) confusion of thought

To be (get) all mixed up or to be (get) all muddled up to be

confused in mind

"Greg, will you admit one thing?" she said getting up.

"Then I'm going. You're all mixed up inside you, aren't you?"... .

"Yes, " I said, "war and all that stuff." "But that's not what I mean. I'm allowing for that. It's you inside yourself that's mixed up yes, all muddled and churned up Aren't you?" (J. P.)

"Give me a chance to think it over, " he replied exhausted. "I'm too damned mixed up." (M. W.) Don't go now about samples and prices and crossbreeds and things, because anyhow it's boring and I get all mixed up. (J. P.) I'm getting slightly muddled, " said Crawford, not sounding so in the least. (C. S.)

I can't think straightmay be used with the same meaning.

"I know." He rubbed his forehead. "I got things all wrong. There are times when I can't think straight. I get muddled." (A. Chr.)

c) confusion and disorder in general

Some adverbial and adjectival phrases in common use are: (all) at sixes and sevensis used of things which are in a state of utter confusion or out of order.

The servants have gone off leaving everything at sixes and sevens. (W. M.) We have just transported the machines into the new workshop, and everything is at sixes and sevens. (K. H.)

There's a regular shindy in the house; and everything at sixes and sevens. (W. Th.) I'm doing my level best but everything is at sixes and sevens. (L. L.)

upside down in disorder; in confusion

"I don't know what I've done, " said Soames


"I never have. It's all upside down. I was fond

of her; I've always been." (J. G.)

"Oh, dear, " said Mrs.-Alington, "I hope they are

not turning the place upside down." (J. P.)

Topsyturvyis similarly used.

(to be) in a muddie (mess, tangle) in a state of

confusion and disorder

"Oh, do come in, " Cynthia urged her after a pause that was just a moment too long. "Everything's in an awful muddle. But do come in." (N. C.) After he had finished packing the furniture, the whole room was in a mess. (A. H.) Everything was in a tangle and I couldn't find what I wanted. (A. H.)

helter-skelter (in) disorderly haste (used of a precipitate action, often in making a hasty retreat)

When the rain came the cricketers rushed helter-skelter for the pavilion. (W. B.) I knew that Geraldine kept her papers in two drawers at the bottom of her desk. Into these she had thrown what she wanted to keep, helter-skelter. ... (L. A.)

pell-mell in a confused, disordered manner

... when looking down into the lock from the quay, you might fancy it was a huge box into which flowers of every hue and shade had been thrown pell-mell. ... (J. J.)

higgledy-piggledy in utter confusion or complete disorder

Trager had one of those minds in which little bits of observation, deduction, flashes of inspiration, and ideas born of a wide experience floated about higgledy-piggledy. ... (V. L.)

haywire in an unusual, confused manner; confused (used of things that seem to act illogically and uncontrollably)

I don' know what's happened to the Ruritarians. Their foreign policy seems to have gone completely haywire. (W. B.) This radio's gone haywire. (D. A. S.)

a bear garden (a bedlam) a place full of noise and confusion

But the way he's gone about it, it's making

the college into a bear garden. (C. S.)

The room was just like a bedlam when I went in.

A pretty (nice, fine) kettle of fishis colloquial for a confused and difficult situation.

When she had gone Soames reached for the letter. "A pretty kettle of fish, " he muttered. (J. G.) The apprentice had broken the driving motor of the machine. It was a nice kettle of fish. (K. H.)


The following colloquial phrases and comparisons are used to underline the fact that something is quite clear and plain: (to be) as plain as a pikestaff (to be) perfectly clear and obvious

That Jane would have trouble with the fellow was as plain as a pikestaff; he had no more idea of money than a cow. (J. G.)

I can't give you long time to make up your mind. That's as plain as a pikestaff, isn't it? (C. S.) Why do you ask me again? Everything is as plain as a pikestaff. (K. H.)

to stick out a mile to be obvious, extremely conspicuous

By the way, I confess I think Nightingale's had a rough deal. The one thing that sticks out a mile to my eye is that he's as blameless as a babe unborn. (C. S.)

I knew that sooner or later she would break down. It stuck out a mile. (S. M.)

Don't tell any more lies. I can prove you were there. It's sticking out a mile. (J. P.)

(to be) as plain as the nose on one's face (to be) perfectly obvious

Alice's voice: You mustn't talk like that. The

servants will

Langdon's voice: It's as plain as the nose on my

face! CD. R.)

It's as plain as the nose on your face, Roebuck,

that she won't go because she doesn't want to be

separated from this man.... (B. Sh.)

(to be) as clear (plain) as day (daylight)

"Oh, come!" said Summerhaye, opening his lips for the first time. "Surely the whole thing is clear as daylight. The man's caught red-handed." (A. Chr.)

Presently he said to himself: "What to do is as plain as day, now." (M. T.)

it leaps to the eye(s) it is extremely conspicuous; it stands out; it catches one's eye

"You are what we call 'quick in the uptake'." "Ah, that, it leaps to the eye." (A. Chr.) They tell me he is away in Cornwall. It leaps to the eye where he has gone. (A. Chr.)

to see something with half an eye to see it easily because it is obvious

Anyone can see with half an eye that you're in love with her. (A. W.)

We could see with half an eye that he was a swindler. (K.H.)

I saw with half an eye that all was over. (R. S.) You can see with half an eye that she is in love. (D. E. S.)

it (that) goes without saying it is quite obvious

"I prefer your not taking advantage of this offer." Lammlein raised his hands. "But that goes without saying, sir." (S. H.) "And, remember all this is in confidence." "Oh, of course that goes without saying." (A. Chr.)

"We have to keep friends anyhow and hear of each other." "That goes without saying." (H. W.)

Comparisons are also commonly used to underline the fact that a thing is easy to do:

(it's) as easy (simple) as falling off a log extremely easy (simple)

"Easy as falling off a log, if you use your head

properly, " it was saying. "All it needs is timing.

Pick your moment." (N. C.)

"I don't quite follow you, Freddy, " Manson


"Why, it's as simple as falling off a log...." (A. C.)

(it's) as easy as kiss your hand (my thumb) extremely easy

When two attendants got out their stretcher and walked importantly through the middle of the crowd, Connie followed them closely like a kind of plain-clothes nurse. She was inside the shop as easy as kiss your hand. (N. C.)

: 2016-06-09

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