what's what

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Alternative forms[edit]


what's what (uncountable)

  1. (idiomatic) Precisely what the situation really is or what the facts truly are.
    • 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, Piccadilly Jim ch. 18:
      "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, Success ch. 17:
      Anyway, he's a wise old bird and may hand you a pointer or two about what's what in New York.
    • 2011 Aug. 15, Sonia Van Gilder Cooke, "Sangat TV," 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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