I wasn’t born yesterday

I wasn’t born yesterday is an idiom with a murky origin. An idiom is a commonly used word, group of words, or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery or metaphors, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech like an often-used metaphor have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom, which may use slang words or other parts of speech common in American slang or British slang, is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions and idiomatic language such as hit the sack, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, silver lining, back to the drawing board, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, face the music, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, because they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. English phrases that are idioms should not be taken literally. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker; it is helpful to maintain a list of phrases, common expressions, colloquial terms, and popular expressions to memorize that are used figuratively or idiomatically. We will examine the meaning of the common idiom I wasn’t born yesterday, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

I wasn’t born yesterday is a remark one makes when he feels he is being taken advantage of. I wasn’t born yesterday is a way to say that one is not naive or gullible; that one is instead, experienced and wise. The expression is used when one is skeptical of another’s intentions or abilities. The phrase I wasn’t born yesterday came into use in the late 1800s, but the exact origin is unknown. A famous American book, play, and movie, Born Yesterday, boosted the popularity of the term. A humorous variation of the idiom is I was born on Tuesday, but it wasn’t last Tuesday.


The title turns the rebuttal “I wasn’t born yesterday” on its head, so that being young and artless is a position of privileged insight. (Los Angeles Review of Books)

But because I wasn’t born yesterday, I know they’ll face obstacles that my son will never have to worry about. (Yakima Herald)

I sip my Diet Coke (which is really a Diet Pepsi that the waitress tried to pass off as Diet Coke, but, ahem, I wasn’t born yesterday) and watch a montage of dudes and various balls fly across screens. (Washingtonian)

Leave a Comment