Know something like the back of one's hand

Discuss word origins and meanings.
Post Reply

Know something like the back of one's hand

Post by verygoodboy » Thu Aug 26, 2010 4:07 pm

http://www.etymonline.com

The above source gives c. 1943 as its first appearance. Does anyone have any comments? (Still travelling in Europe and unable to access more reliable sources.)

With thanks
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: xxxxxxxxxxxxx

Re: Know something like the back of one's hand

Post by Phil White » Thu Aug 26, 2010 4:40 pm

Best I can do is:
Thanks to Johnnie Cope and other red-coat gomerals, I should ken this country like the back of my hand; and if ye’re ready for another bit run with Alan Breck, we’ll can cast back inshore, and come to the seaside again by Dirleton.
"Catriona" (aka "David Balfour", Robert Louis Stevenson, 1893
The most I can say is that I know Frances like the back of my hand and can tell without a word from her that she has never recovered from a wound and that there is only one kind of peace that will heal it.
Quoted in "Gilbert Keith Chesterton", Maisie Ward, 1943
The latter is, however, quoting a letter without a postmark, but probably dating from 1901.

They are, of course, probably only mavericks. ;-)
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: Phil White
Non sum felix lepus

Re: Know something like the back of one's hand

Post by Erik_Kowal » Thu Aug 26, 2010 6:26 pm

Phil White wrote:They are, of course, probably only mavericks. ;-)
If so, whatever you do don't vote for them!
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: -- Looking up a word? Try OneLook's metadictionary (--> definitions) and reverse dictionary (--> terms based on your definitions)8-- Contribute favourite diary entries, quotations and more here8 -- Find new postings easily with Active Topics8-- Want to research a word? Get essential tips from experienced researcher Ken Greenwald

Re: Know something like the back of one's hand

Post by verygoodboy » Fri Aug 27, 2010 1:47 am

Thank you Phil. Considering that the backs of our hands are constantly in front of us, I would have thought the expression was a lot older.
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: xxxxxxxxxxxxx

Re: Know something like the back of one's hand

Post by christinecornwall » Fri Aug 27, 2010 4:12 pm

They are, of course, probably only mavericks. ;-)
If so, whatever you do don't vote for them!
Community organizers are a much better bet......they know NOTHING like the back of their hand.
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS

Re: Know something like the back of one's hand

Post by Phil White » Fri Aug 27, 2010 4:36 pm

verygoodboy wrote:Thank you Phil. Considering that the backs of our hands are constantly in front of us, I would have thought the expression was a lot older.
I have to say, I've always found the expression bizarre. Be honest, from a random selection of similar looking hands, could you really identify yours? Honestly?
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: Phil White
Non sum felix lepus

Re: Know something like the back of one's hand

Post by Shelley » Fri Aug 27, 2010 6:17 pm

What an interesting thought, Phil. I think I could, but now that you mention it . . .

Someone should get a grant to study the ability of people to recognize the backs of their own hands. It would be a pretty simple experiment to set up. While at it, the study could include examining whether or not people could recognize the backs of their own heads, and whether or not their jeans made them look fat.
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS

Re: Know something like the back of one's hand

Post by verygoodboy » Fri Aug 27, 2010 7:17 pm

The point is being missed, methinks.

You do not have to differentiate or recognise your own hands from those of other people; your hands belong to you, exclusively.

Whatever it is you know, you know it like the back of your hand. The hands of other people are irrelevant.
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: xxxxxxxxxxxxx

Re: Know something like the back of one's hand

Post by Phil White » Fri Aug 27, 2010 7:31 pm

Chill!
It was only an off-the cuff, witty? comment. Although I actually don't think I know the back of my hand very well at all.
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: Phil White
Non sum felix lepus

Re: Know something like the back of one's hand

Post by Shelley » Fri Aug 27, 2010 8:17 pm

The point is: the phrase is meant to describe intimate knowledge of something to a degree greater than anyone else could possibly achieve. If one couldn't pick the back of one's own hand out of a line-up, it would demonstrate one's ignorance about the back of one's own hand and thus make the use of the phrase pretty meaningless, unless it's intended to be sarcastic or humorous.

I still think I could recognize the back of my own hand: as I contemplate its features, I can't help hearing those famous words, "Some people call these age spots. I call them ugly, but what's a woman to do?"
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS

Re: Know something like the back of one's hand

Post by trolley » Fri Aug 27, 2010 10:09 pm

I probably couldn't pick my nose in a line-up.
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS

Re: Know something like the back of one's hand

Post by Erik_Kowal » Fri Aug 27, 2010 10:33 pm

Could you pick your friend's nose?
ACCESS_POST_ACTIONS
Signature: -- Looking up a word? Try OneLook's metadictionary (--> definitions) and reverse dictionary (--> terms based on your definitions)8-- Contribute favourite diary entries, quotations and more here8 -- Find new postings easily with Active Topics8-- Want to research a word? Get essential tips from experienced researcher Ken Greenwald

ACCESS_END_OF_TOPIC
Post Reply