MLA Platinum Award Press Release

Why do we say "It's no skin off my nose"?

Well-Known Expressions

It's no skin off my nose

Meaning:

It doesn't bother me

Background:

There seem to be many different theories on the source of this expression. Gregory Titelman's America's Popular Proverbs and Sayings says the expression of of boxing origin and dates from the early 20th century. The expression is used in a 1910 edition of Cosmopolitan, back when it was called The Cosmopolitan and was a "family magazine" very different to its current incarnation.

But others disagree, with some claiming it that its roots are not in the boxing arena but in the mill - that it is, in essence, the opposite of "putting your nose to the grindstone" - the fact that there is no skin off my nose indicates that I didn't put in as much effort as the person who put their nose in the grindstone, so to speak.

The boxing background appears to carry the most credibility - but for some light relief you might enjoy this colorful tale involving 16th century clandestine cabbage worshipers sticking their noses through holes in doors!

Incidentally, apparently some say "it's no skin off my teeth", which appears to be a muddled version of the expression under discussion and "skin of my teeth", which has its origins in the Book of Job: "My bone cleaveth to my skin and to my flesh, and I am escaped with the skin of my teeth."

Alphabetical list of expressions

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