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The other day I was watching a television series called The Big Bang Theory on Netflix, and in season 5, episode 6, which is entitled The Rhinitis Revelation Mary Cooper said the following:

Now you listen to me. I know you feel like you can’t find someone, but there’s a lock for every key. Back home, there’s a girl works at the Wal-Mart. Tall, tall girl. Woman could hunt geese with a rake.

What does the phrase "there's a lock for every key" mean, and when should I use it?

  • It's not a common idiom, but what would you think it means? – Hot Licks Jan 31 at 2:37
  • Hi, and welcome back to EL&U. Could you give us a little more context,please? Which series, which episode, what minute marking...? – Cascabel Jan 31 at 3:07
  • I was looking for the episode and I found it. Allow me to edit my question. – Angel Oropeza Jan 31 at 16:52
  • I wonder who the speaker is because of the six regular characters, none would switch an idiom around like that unless there was a purpose to it. – Lambie Jan 31 at 20:20
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It is probably derived from the vice versa "there is a key for every lock", which can be used to either mean there is a solution for every problem, or suggest that there is likely a way to unlock a person's heart so you can find your way inside, or more literally make them like or even fall in love with you. See the Thesaurus of Traditional English Metaphors by P.R. Wilkinson for reference. I suppose the other way around could be taken to mean that there is a problem for every solution, although that would not work as well metaphorically, because duplicate keys exist, which would explain why it is much less common.

However, taking note of the context, with the "can't find someone verbiage" and the immediate mention of a woman thereafter, it probably means that there is a woman for every man, which is a phrase used to reassure people that even if they have difficulty finding a mate, they can do so, if they try hard enough, because the sex distribution among humankind is approximately 50:50.

Take this excerpt from page 22 of Say Hello to Me by Darshaun McAway for example:

There's a woman for every man. Women are everywhere. The trick is, how do you find the right woman for you?

In this case the lock and key serve as metonymy for man and woman by way of acting as euphemisms for human genitals.

My advice is to avoid copying unfamiliar terms from Big Bang Theory unless you are ready to be embarrassed: It has many jokes which are designed to be socially awkward, because the show is meant to be about a group of nerds. This is almost certainly one of those jokes. Just use the more direct "woman for every man" language instead, and you can avoid potentially distasteful references to human genitals altogether.

  • The show has some of the best comedic writing around. – Lambie Jan 31 at 20:19

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