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A colloquialism which dates back to the early 1940s in the United States, sometimes ended with "that's why your shoes don't shine". Shinola was a popular brand of shoe polish.


know shit from Shinola

  1. (US, vulgar) To have the most basic level of intelligence or common sense.
    • 1974, S. George Pesare, "You Don't Know From Shoe Polish!", Black Belt Magazine, August 1974 issue, pg. 10:
      "I'd like to comment on your May editorial, "Who's In Charge Here?" You may be a fair journalist, but you don't know shit from Shinola when it comes to karate."
    • 1995, Michael Ward, Why your corporate culture change isn't working-- and what to do about it, pg. 102:
      "Laura looked at him coolly, levelly. 'Frank,' she said softly, 'the information simply isn't there. Therefore the control can't be there either. So don't try to con me. You don't know shit from Shinola!'"
    • 1996, Kenneth M. Ford and Zenon W. Pylyshyn, The robot's dilemma revisited: the frame problem in artificial intelligence, pg. 28:
      "See what I mean Shiela? You've got the logical form, the semantics, and all that, but you don't know shit from Shinola, and with your stupid heuristic learner you can't learn it unless somebody with authority tells you."

Usage notesEdit

  • Almost always used in negative constructions to describe someone's ignorance or stupidity, such as: He doesn't know shit from Shinola.