Please help me to understand sentence '' You’re a gnat’s ass away from having this conversation behind bars.'' to in the following dialog in movie ''Headlock'' (about minute 26 to 27).

PETER TO TESS: Are you fucking kidding me?! You’re a gnat’s ass away from having this conversation behind bars. Do you realize that? Jesus Christ, Tess. What are you trying to accomplish here?

TESS TO PETER: What is this trying to accomplish, Peter.

PETER TO TESS: I’m following procedure! TESS TO PETER: Procedure? Don’t give me those company bullshit lines!


A gnat is a small insect. The "ass" of a gnat would be even smaller. "Behind bars" is a common idiom for someone being in prison or in jail.

So, Peter is saying that Tess narrowly avoided being in jail/prison, and if she had failed to avoid that, jail/prison is where their conversation would be taking place

  • Good answer, you might want to provide a link showing that gnat's ass is a common idiom for an extremely small measurement or tight tolerance, such as this one... worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-wit2.htm – barbecue Jul 10 '20 at 17:48
  • 1
    side note: a very close substitute for gnat's ass is 'a hair's breadth' – eps Jul 10 '20 at 20:26

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