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I've been having a small argument with a family member. She insists "It's no skin off my teeth" is the correct saying, though I've only heard "It's no skin off my nose" before.

Which saying is more "correct" than the other? By this, I mean which came first, which is more commonly used, and which is more acceptable to use.

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The version I hear most frequently is "It's no skin off my ass." –  Robusto Apr 3 '11 at 19:00

6 Answers 6

up vote 12 down vote accepted

Writing in Google I got these results:

  • "It's no skin off my teeth" -> About 36,300 results
  • "It's no skin off my nose" -> About 449,000 results

But on the dictionary I found both and they seem to have different meanings, even if the first one uses by the skin of and not no skin off:

by the skin of one's teeth by a very narrow margin; barely : I only got away by the skin of my teeth. [ORIGIN: from a misquotation of Job 19:20: “I am escaped with the skin of my teeth” (i.e., and nothing else). Current use reflects a different sense.]

it's no skin off my nose (or off my back) informal (usually spoken with emphasis on “my”) used to indicate that one is not offended or adversely affected by something: it's no skin off my nose if you don't want dessert.

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It would thus appear to be a case of mixed metaphors on the part of the OP's argumentative relative, that is, taking a very loose — hopefully not abusive — definition of "metaphor" to include idiomatic images. –  Percy P. Apr 3 '11 at 17:48

You are correct. By the skin of your teeth, means very close. It missed me by the skin of my teeth. Your relative seems to be confusing metaphors. Some similar confused metaphors that someone in my family uses: Don't kick a gift horse in the mouth and it's six of one seven of the other.

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I agree. Teeth may conceivably become the dominant form eventually, but that seems unlikely. And approximately it's fair to say that as things stand, any occurences we do find are down to confusion with another closely-related expression. –  FumbleFingers Apr 3 '11 at 17:39

Worldwide and over time, no skin off my nose is overwhelmingly more common for this particular context. As a Brit, I've never come across no skin off my teeth before (unsurprisingly, considering this). But certainly exists as an 'also-ran' in American English.

Personally I've always assumed America has a higher percentage of speakers who are less than perfectly fluent in English (for whatever reasons). In a case like this the rarer alternative could simply arise through confusion with by the skin of one's teeth (idiomatic phrase meaning 'by the narrowest of margins').

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Both are commonly used. If the number of results on a google search is a reliable result, it's no skin off my nose is slightly more common than it's no skin off my teeth. Personally, I prefer the nose version, because your nose has skin, but your teeth do not. In fact, the teeth version probably originated, like Alenanno suggest, by a mixture of idioms. The nose version is more canonical, that is, it is the original expression.

There are also other similar alternatives to the idiom:

It's no skin off my back

(and there are several others you can find easily in a google search that I will not mention here.)

You could use any other part of body and the meaning would probably still be understood. no skin off my elbow is very rare, but attested. If you wanted to be different than everybody else, you could say, it's no skin off my thumb web.

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With a nod to Bringing Up Baby: "It's no skin off my intercostal clavicle". –  PSU Apr 3 '11 at 22:18
    
Slightly more common? "No skin off my nose" has ten times the number of Google hits that "no skin off my teeth" has, which makes it considerably more common. –  scottishwildcat Aug 15 '11 at 15:21

In my mind; "No skin off my nose" appears to indicate that the speaker nervously assumes that s/he will remain unaffected (reservations), but "no skin off my teeth" seems to indicate that the speaker absolutely knows that it is utterly impossible to even be affected, since teeth skin is every bit as rare as frog fur or chicken lips.

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The first expression of this form I can find in Google books is

no skin off my shins

from 1891 in Puck, a magazine published in New York.

Google Ngrams shows the four most common expressions currently are:

no skin off my nose,
no skin off my back,
no skin off my ass,
no skin off my teeth.

I wouldn't be all that surprised if "no skin off my ass" was the first of these forms to be spoken but the last to be written down.

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