when it's at home
- (idiomatic, Britain) (of a person) in reality; in fact; when it comes down to it. (of a topic) plainly; in plain English; at its most basic level.
- Who is Nelson Mandela when he's at home?
- Feng Shui? What on earth is that when it's at home?
This phrase is an intensifier used to communicate the fact that one knows nothing about a particular person or subject, (Haemoglobin? What in blazes is that when it's at home?), effecting a self-conscious cutesy ignorance that sometimes also carries a humorous irony, depending on context. It often implies derision for the subject, or some erudite, esoteric, overly-technical, or overly-political word used in the company of the speaker.
- 1852, Charles James Lever, The Daltons; or, Three roads in life. With illustr. by Phiz, page 101
- And who is she, when she's at home?" said Dalton, half sulkily. "Lady Hester, of course, Papa.
- 1863, James Hedderwick, Hedderwick's miscellany of instructive and entertaining literature, page 166
- And who's the Marquis of Pennywhistle when he's at home?' said the little man, evidently making the question for the purpose of preventing further words...
- 1922, James Joyce, Ulysses, page 62
- — Metempsychosis? — Yes. Who’s he when he’s at home? — Metempsychosis, he said, frowning. It’s Greek : from the Greek. That means the transmigration of souls.
- 1966, Tom Stoppard, "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead" (play and film)
- 'What's your name when you're at home?'
- 1970, Seán O'Faoláin, Stories of Sean O'Faolain, page 329
- 'And what, pray, is wrong with Lourdes when it's at home?' 'Commercialized. I simply can't believe that this island was the most famous pilgrimage of the Middle Ages.'
- 1996, Sue Townsend, Adrian Mole: The Lost Years, page 71
- I tried to explain to the poor woman, but she said 'What's a bleedin' ozone layer when it's at home?
- 1999, Anthony Cronin, Samuel Beckett: The Last Modernist, page 58
- 'I wouldn't suggest that GBS is not a great playwright, whatever that is when it's at home,' he wrote.
- 2000, John Le Carre, The Constant Gardener, page 163
- "So what's the white plague then, when it's at home?" he demands, implying by his hectoring tone that Justin is personally responsible for its spread.
Other rare inflected forms: