what's what

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  • (file)


what's what (uncountable)

  1. (idiomatic) Precisely what the situation really is or what the facts truly are; the true state of things.
    • 1823, Lord Byron, Don Juan, Canto the Tenth:
      Besides, he had some qualities which fix
      Middle-aged ladies even more than young:
      The former know what's what; while new-fledged chicks
      Know little more of Love than what is sung
      In rhymes . . .
    • 1918, P. G. Wodehouse, chapter 18, in Piccadilly Jim:
      "Well, I know what's what, too. I know what you are for one thing." He chuckled. "I've got your number all right."
    • 1921, Samuel Hopkins Adams, chapter 17, in Success:
      Anyway, he's a wise old bird and may hand you a pointer or two about what's what in New York.
    • c. 1925-29, Mahadev Desai (translator), M.K. Gandhi, The Story of My Experiments with Truth, Part I, chapter xvii[1]:
      This was a hardship in as much as inquiry showed that even in vegetarian restaurants many courses used to contain eggs. This meant that unless I knew what was what, I had to go through the awkward process of ascertaining whether a particular course contained eggs or no, for many puddings and cakes were not free from them.
    • 2011 August 15, Sonia Van Gilder Cooke, “Sangat TV”, in Time:
      Sometimes it takes a scruffy underdog to show the professionals what's what. During the London riots, it was tiny Birmingham broadcaster Sangat TV that trumped the BBC and CNN with its riveting footage and quirky commentary.

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