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I find myself using the phrase "that's using your noggin" in various situations, even though English is not my native language. Most likely I picked it up watching some tv show.

I understand that "noggin" means head, but it seems strange that "that's using your noggin" should be in widespread (in America, I assume) use, although it's not only used in this context.

What is the origin of this expression?

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Could you give examples of it being used not in the context of "That's using your head"? I can't think of any examples of it being used in any other context? –  Omar Kooheji Feb 1 '11 at 11:52
    
The phrase simply means "using your brain". It's usually applied with a straight-forward meaning, implying that thoughtfulness was indeed employed, but may sometimes be used in an ironic or jocular sense when the subject of the phrase does something stupid. –  Hot Licks Jan 9 at 1:15

5 Answers 5

up vote 6 down vote accepted

"Your noggin" is colloquial for your head Origin of noggin is as follows ( From the Online Etymology Dictionary):

1620s, "small cup, mug," later "small drink" (1690s), of unknown origin, possibly related to Norfolk dialectal nog "strong ale" (now chiefly in eggnog). Informal meaning "head" first attested 1866 in Amer.Eng.

So it means using your head, the assumption is that you used your brain, implying that you had a good idea. Alternatively you could have head-butted something...

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Yes, I did look up "noggin", and found out that it means "head". However, what I really wanted to ask about was the entire expression. I added a bit more text to the question that might clarify this. –  Vetle Jan 20 '11 at 14:49

I don't believe the term "noggin" is restricted to the phrase "That's using your noggin!" in normal usage in America. I have heard and used it in the following way:

I stopped playing baseball because I got hit in the noggin pretty hard.

... or some such.

Depending on the context (your audience), you could substitute "noggin" for "head" whenever you want. That is, I consider it slang and probably wouldn't use it in a formal situation.

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Ok, perhaps the "noggin" is more widely used, I've removed the assumption from my question. I'm also wondering if perhaps this issue is more localized, because I'm not the only one using the expression "that's using your noggin" in my social network, but I have no idea where everyone picked it up. Still looking for info about that particular expression, though. :) –  Vetle Jan 20 '11 at 16:42
    
Well, my point is that there is no special origin for "That's using your noggin", but there is for "noggin" itself (see Omar's answer). –  Chris Dwyer Jan 20 '11 at 16:48

A noggin as a mug was made in Germanic cultures to look like a head. It was a caricature of a head and ugly like a troll's head. So when used to refer to a person's head it has the meaning of the person's head and implies that the person is ugly. Hence, "Use your noggin" and "Got hit in the noggin" both work.

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This is interesting, but without any sources, I am skeptical of it's influence on English. Can you expand with some references? I think it would be great if it were true. –  Hunter Hogan 2 days ago

Skoggin, which rimes with noggin, is Ojibwa for head. Oxieskoggin means headache. There was plenty of time for this to get to England by 1700. Oxieskoggin could also refer to a hangover.

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If you could add a source, this would be a valuable answer. :) –  medica Feb 14 '14 at 6:30

Noggin.......comes from an area in dublin ireland......sallynoggin

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Do you have any evidence to support the idea that the word originates from the place, rather than the place using the word? wikipedia's entry on Sallynoggin suggests that the "noggin" portion was used because it already existed as a word. –  Hellion 2 days ago

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