Whence "didn't know from" ?
June 6, 2010 11:46 AM   Subscribe

What is the meaning and origin of "I didn't know from ___"?

I had never encountered this idiom until about a year ago, but now I see it with increasing regularity in blogs and articles. It causes my mental parser to have a syntax error. Is it a regional thing?

I think I understand "didn't know from Adam" and "didn't know from a hole in the wall", but that doesn't seem to be quite what's happening in these other specimens:

but I didn't know from shitty until I pulled up at one of East Detroit's community farms

I didn't know from pho

as a young man from Detroit he really didn't know from chickens

Beethoven didn't know from jazz
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl to Society & Culture (6 answers total)
Best answer: This syllabus seems to think New York, originating among Yiddish speakers. I wouldn't be surprised; I heard it in the New York area long before I heard it in the mainstream media.

Same note here:
Yiddish has had a quite noticeable influence on American English over the last century. The English of Yiddish-speaking immigrants and their children was of course heavily spiced with Yiddish words and phrases, many of which have worked there way into mainstream English. Some of these (e.g., bagel, shmooze, shtick, kosher, kvetch, etc.) remain identifiably 'Jewish' (either for phonological or semantic reasons), while many others (e.g., glitch, maven, mishmash, tush, klutz) have quietly merged with the rest of the English lexicon. A number of Yiddish idiomatic constructions have also entered colloquial English, such as the pattern I don't know from ___ (ikh veys nit fun ___), idioms (such as "From your mouth to God's ear"), and the dismissive shm-reduplication (Oedipus Shmoedipus: a boy shouldn't love his mother?). In addition, the English of many Orthodox Jews in America today maintains a number of Yiddish influences at all levels of the grammar.
posted by Miko at 11:52 AM on June 6, 2010 [3 favorites]

Previously on AskMe. Short answer: it comes from Yiddish.
posted by scody at 11:52 AM on June 6, 2010

Huh...was on AskMe before, too.
posted by Miko at 11:52 AM on June 6, 2010

Yes, Yiddish.
posted by R. Mutt at 11:54 AM on June 6, 2010

One of my favorites, not, apparently from the Yiddish: from Adam's off ox.
posted by SLC Mom at 12:42 PM on June 6, 2010

Response by poster: Ah, I had searched for "didn't" instead of "doesn't". Guess I don't know from search.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 8:27 PM on June 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

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