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In the know

Posted by Smokey Stover on February 22, 2008 at 15:38:

In Reply to: In the know posted by Poey on February 18, 2008 at 17:23:

: Where did the phrase, 'in the know', originate, what does it mean, and has the phrase been shortened recently?

Just offhand, I would think it unlikely that one could pin down the first to say "in the know." What makes you think it has been shortened? It's pretty short, but I don't think it has ever been longer.

In the past the noun "know" was sometimes used to mean "knowledge" or "knowing." In the late 19th century the phrase "in the know" was sometimes used to mean having knowledge. Nowadays it is mostly used colloquially to mean, as the Oxford English Dictionary says, "in possession of information which is not generally known."

It implies that there are others who are NOT in the know, who haven't been clued in, who don't know what's going on. An example would be up-to-date slang. To those not in the know, it can sound like arcane babble. If people around you are using expressions like "bogarting," for instance, and you don't know what they mean, then you are clearly not in the know.

If you are in an office in which some of the personnel have security clearances and you don't, you may hear conversations which you don't understand because you are not in the know. But then, of course, you're not supposed to hear such conversations.

If your daughter comes home and talks to her mother about things and people in a manner incomprehensible to you, it is obvious that you are not in the know (although your wife may be).

If the subject is office gossip, then you might hear indirect references, perhaps followed by a giggle. If you are not in the know then you have no idea why anyone is giggling, or what the indirect reference is all about.

If people around you have secrets which they are not telling you, then you are not in the know, although it may seem as though everyone but you IS in the know.

I hope, from these examples, that from now on you will know when you are in the know, and when you are not. If you have adolescent children whose vocabulary and references you do not entirely understand, it's because you are not in the know. And that may be exactly where your children want you to be.