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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 '15 at 1:15
up vote 10 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. – hunterhogan Mar 2 '15 at 23:00

I'm an American and I grew up using the word noggin. I've heard it said "that's using your noggin" from my parents and grandparents on both sides of the family. Noggin is slang for head or brain and almost anyone over 30 years old in America would think head or brain depending on the sentence, if you were to use the word noggin. Using "that's using your noggin" means you've done something good or figured out a problem. It's also a double slang or pun if you will, if some one were to use their head to break something or bumped his head, You might hear "that's using your noggin or head". Same if you injured your head, you might hear it as an insult because they didn't think before they did something and got hurt or hurt their head, (Well that was using your noggin). I'm guessing of course, but both sides of my family are from the Midwest of America Indiana,Kentucky or Tennessee around there in that area is where it most likely started, and it's just a saying using a slang word. I've also heard and used gourd, melon, airbag for head. Airbag is a more resent slang term. I guess more of a slander than the average term. The term noggin isn't heard much now days except by older folks being slightly comical or making friendly light hearted comments.

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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

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