View Poll Results: Which use of "on the nose" seems more appropriate to you?
"Exactly correct": his estimate of his new boyfriend's intelligence was on the nose. 99 94.29%
"Ham-handed" or "blunt": his description of his new boyfriend's intelligence was on the nose. 7 6.67%
Multiple Choice Poll. Voters: 105. You may not vote on this poll

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#1
Old 06-18-2013, 08:17 PM
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What do YOU mean by "on the nose"?

To me, the expression "on the nose" was as clear as could be. It's actually quite descriptive in its meaning of "exactly correct." But I've slowly picked up here that others use it to mean "ham-handed," as in "the environmental + colonial messages of Avatar were a little on the nose."

How do YOU use it?
#2
Old 06-18-2013, 08:38 PM
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In my experience the second sense is an entertainment industry thing. It's a professional writer term of art that's gradually trickled out into wider usage.
#3
Old 06-18-2013, 08:42 PM
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"Exactly correct". I hadn't even heard of the other definition until this thread.
#4
Old 06-18-2013, 08:53 PM
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The second definition wouldn't make much sense in Charades.
#5
Old 06-18-2013, 08:53 PM
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Aren't those two usages the same thing? The second usage (to me) is just saying that the environmental message is so direct and unsubtle that it stands out from the movie, and thus looks ham-fisted. Likewise, dialogue where characters always say precisely what they're thinking would appear too "on the nose", because people don't actually talk that way.
#6
Old 06-18-2013, 08:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr. Strangelove View Post
Aren't those two usages the same thing? The second usage (to me) is just saying that the environmental message is so direct and unsubtle that it stands out from the movie, and thus looks ham-fisted. Likewise, dialogue where characters always say precisely what they're thinking would appear too "on the nose", because people don't actually talk that way.
I agree with the above. I've always taken the second usage to be derived from the first. I usually see it used with an artistic/stylistic choice that is too literal.
#7
Old 06-18-2013, 08:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr. Strangelove View Post
Aren't those two usages the same thing? The second usage (to me) is just saying that the environmental message is so direct and unsubtle that it stands out from the movie, and thus looks ham-fisted. Likewise, dialogue where characters always say precisely what they're thinking would appear too "on the nose", because people don't actually talk that way.
I think it's largely a connotative difference. One is complimentary ("bam! Nailed it!") and the other is critical.
#8
Old 06-18-2013, 08:59 PM
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Oh, I've heard it that other way! Usually prefaced with "a little too." Still meaning ham-handed, but snarkier.
#9
Old 06-18-2013, 09:01 PM
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I can see how one derives from the other, but when you already have another way of saying the same thing that doesn't elicit confusion over meaning, it seems stupid to use the other one.

Obviously, I'd never use the second definition, although I am aware of it being used. Hence I voted for the first. The second is just a metaphorical interpretation that should not be as popular as it is.

Last edited by BigT; 06-18-2013 at 09:02 PM.
#10
Old 06-18-2013, 09:05 PM
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Originally Posted by Speaker for the Dead View Post
I think it's largely a connotative difference. One is complimentary ("bam! Nailed it!") and the other is critical.
Sure. What's good in one situation may not be good in another. If I say a statement is "on the nose," I don't just mean that the statement is correct, but that it was expressed so clearly and effectively that it would be difficult to misinterpret. But the same statement in a movie (say as a piece of exposition) might well appear clunky and artificial.
#11
Old 06-18-2013, 09:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Speaker for the Dead View Post
I think it's largely a connotative difference. One is complimentary ("bam! Nailed it!") and the other is critical.
BTW, I've never actually heard it used as with your poll. As dropzone said, it's generally prefaced by "a little too" or possibly just "too". Also, I've only heard it apply to creative works, not real-life situations.
#12
Old 06-19-2013, 01:48 AM
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I always thought the second meaning was like a bad smell, that you couldn't get away from. Something is past its use-by date, and it stinks.

ETA: Wiktionary says this is Australian slang, might not be common in the US.

Last edited by Weedy; 06-19-2013 at 01:49 AM.
#13
Old 06-19-2013, 02:12 AM
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I've only ever used it when betting horses.

"In the fifth at Churchill Downs, give me $20 on the nose, number 3."

Translation: I'm betting $20 that horse number 3 wins the fifth race today at Churchill Downs.
#14
Old 06-19-2013, 05:33 AM
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I would use the phrases 'on the nose' or 'on the button' to describe something that was exactly correct in a neutral or positive way.

I would use the phrase ' a bit on the nose' to describe something that is correct, but in a negative way.
#15
Old 06-19-2013, 05:36 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Weedy View Post
I always thought the second meaning was like a bad smell, that you couldn't get away from. Something is past its use-by date, and it stinks.

ETA: Wiktionary says this is Australian slang, might not be common in the US.
This is the definition I was expecting. On the nose = suspicious, something stinks.
#16
Old 06-19-2013, 06:07 AM
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Originally Posted by Der Trihs View Post
"Exactly correct". I hadn't even heard of the other definition until this thread.
Couldn't have said it better myself.
#17
Old 06-19-2013, 06:18 AM
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stinky or suspicious. Otherwise only about horse racing
#18
Old 06-19-2013, 06:27 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Speaker for the Dead View Post
I think it's largely a connotative difference. One is complimentary ("bam! Nailed it!") and the other is critical.
Huh. I've only heard it used critically.
#19
Old 06-19-2013, 09:10 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr. Strangelove View Post
Aren't those two usages the same thing? The second usage (to me) is just saying that the environmental message is so direct and unsubtle that it stands out from the movie, and thus looks ham-fisted. Likewise, dialogue where characters always say precisely what they're thinking would appear too "on the nose", because people don't actually talk that way.
Yes, this, exactly.
#20
Old 06-19-2013, 06:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Weedy View Post
I always thought the second meaning was like a bad smell, that you couldn't get away from. Something is past its use-by date, and it stinks.

ETA: Wiktionary says this is Australian slang, might not be common in the US.
Yep, this is the only definition I know. Often used when referring to a politician or political party. 'The party is on the nose in the electorate' means that the party is widely unpopular and/or there's some sort of scandal going on or trying to be covered up. Seats will be lost if there's an election looming.

'Leader X is on the nose' means the leader of the party is unpopular (with the people and/or with the party) and it's time to get a new leader (which could very well be 'on the nose' itself, depending on the specifics surrounding any leadership challenge). Political parties can also be on the nose in some areas but sort of okay in others eg 'Labor is on the nose in Queensland'.

I wasn't aware of the 'exactly correct' type of meaning. Language is a funny thing.
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