“No,” he said, turning his burning face away from her.
“Yes. It's filthy. That aside, it's also no good.”
“You wouldn't know good if it walked up and bit your nose off!” he yelled, not caring.

I found literary translation of the last sentence with meaning like the man does not care how good it [the novel] was and sends the woman to hell with her notion of good.

Can anybody decompose the last sentence and/or rephrase it to make more clear such a translation?

  • 1
    Perhaps "You wouldn't recognize 'good' if it walked up to you and kicked you in the butt!" might be better. "Bite your nose off" just does not work for me, for whatever reasons. Don Aug 2 '16 at 14:04
  • @rhetorician I'm sure Stephen King will take that under advisement ;-) books.google.co.uk/…
    – Spagirl
    Aug 2 '16 at 14:09
  • @Spagirl: I'm not that familiar with King's work, so I'll take your word for it. Don Aug 2 '16 at 14:11
  • @rhetorician thanks, your rephrase got the sense to me, I can mark as right answer if you post it.
    – kassie
    Aug 2 '16 at 14:12

You wouldn't know __ if it __ed you is a common idiom scheme (or snowclone) which means that you wouldn't know or recognize something even if was very obvious.

For example:

The idea is that if something hit you in the face, bit you on the ass, or was such that you fell over it, then if would be pretty obvious to you what the thing was. But the sentence declares that even then, you are so oblivious that you still wouldn't know what the thing was.

Here are yet more variants:

  • you wouldn't know __ if it was right in front of you
  • you wouldn't know __ if it was staring you in the face
  • you wouldn't know __ if it was right under your nose

You can embellish this kind of structure to make it more hyperbolic and colorful, as in your example of:

  • you wouldn't know __ if it walked up and bit your nose off

This might be viewed as a play on the original structure as well as the expression be right under your nose, which means "to be in a place that you can clearly see."


I like

You wouldn't know "good" if it walked up to you and kicked you in the ____!

Fill in the blank with any word of your choosing (e.g., butt, ass, nads,* groin), keeping in mind, of course, who your audience happens to be!

*Short for gonads

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