I was watching a TED talk on cartoons in The New Yorker, and the presenter used an idiom I've never heard.

But like I said, you cannot satisfy everyone. You couldn't satisfy this guy.

"Another joke on old white males. Ha ha. The wit. It's nice, I'm sure to be young and rude, but some day you'll be old, unless you drop dead as I wish."

The New Yorker is rather a sensitive environment, very easy for people to get their nose out of joint.

In this context it is easy to see that means to get someone annoyed or bothered (similar to "knickers in a twist" or "panties in a bunch".)

I'm just curious as to where it's come from and when/where the popular use is, as I've never heard it before. I'm 23 and live in PA.

  • 1
    See: phrases.org.uk/meanings/296600.html Apr 30, 2014 at 16:04
  • I always assumed it referred to someone getting into business that wasn't theirs. Being "nosey".
    – user78118
    Jun 3, 2014 at 3:05
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    From what I’ve been able to glean over the years, it usually comes from hitting on the wrong guy’s girlfriend. Jun 3, 2014 at 3:17

1 Answer 1


It’s interesting how various body parts represent statements used about conflict concepts and states of ‘being’ at these times. Getting a “nose out of joint” is one of those. The origin of this phrase reportedly dates back to 1581 and was used by Barnaby Rich in His Farewell to Militarie Profession. The related quote is: “It could bee no other then his owne manne, that has thrust his nose so farre out of ioynte.” The meaning then, as it is today, is about reacting with hurt feelings and upset to an offense such as when someone gets something we want. The visual of a ‘nose out of joint’ makes for a vivid metaphor. The image, for instance, is one of imbalance and something broken (literally and figuratively). Looking at a person with a ‘nose out of joint’ is in and of itself a painful vision and one which I imagine reflects emotions of deep hurt, anger, disappointment, betrayal, injustice, or sadness. Get you nose out of joint.

As to its popularity, looking at Ngram it looks that it still is, as it used to be.


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