know from

Beverly Flanigan flanigan at OHIOU.EDU
Fri Dec 27 18:53:24 UTC 2002

At 01:08 PM 12/27/2002 -0500, you wrote:
>In a message dated 12/27/02 11:33:19 AM Eastern Standard Time,
>laurence.horn at YALE.EDU writes:
> > You'd expect "He doesn't know from a hole in the ground" (or what
> >  I assume is the unexpurgated version, "He doesn't know from a hole in
> >  his ass")  to represent the original version, and I suspect this
> >  doesn't occur at all.  These expressions (cf. also "He doesn't know
> >  shit from shinola") allude to imperfections in the referent's powers
> >  of discernment,
>The original expression was "He doesn't know his ass from a hole in the
>ground".  I don't know of any variants.  Why these two items are juxtaposed
>is less than obvious---I would guess the originator had a scatalogical image
>of a man's anus and the hole in the ground he is defecating into.

My father used "He doesn't know his ass from a hole in the ground"
frequently (born 1900 in rural Minnesota, of Norwegian- and Swedish-born
parents).  Believe me, there wasn't any Yiddish influence in that
area!  However, German immigrants were co-existent in the area.  I always
wondered where he got that expression; as a kid, I just assumed he was so
clever (and generally scatological in his talk) that he made this, and
others, up!

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