Who said that first? – (To) know what’s what

(To) know what’s what

Sometimes said of society matrons who understand perfect etiquette and the science of dinner-table seating. Or pundits who know local political gossip and the status of the financial markets. The term first appears in Hudibras by Samuel Butler (1663):

He knew what’s what, and that’s as high

As metaphysic wit can fly.

 

(Memorably quoted by Mae West when a lifejacket was named after her:

I’ve been in Who’s who and I know what’s what,

but this is the first time I’ve been in a dictionary.’)

 

 

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Max Cryer

Max Cryer is well known for his books on language and other subjects. In a long career, he has been a teacher, television host and m.c. as well as a performer on the opera stage in London and in cabaret in Las Vegas and Hollywood. He is now a full-time writer.