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know which side one's bread is buttered on



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know which side one's bread is buttered on

  1. (idiomatic) To be aware of where one's interests lie in a situation.
    • 1822, Sir Walter Scott, The Fortunes of Nigel, Chapter I:
      “Pshaw!” answered his mercurial companion; “he knows on which side his bread is buttered, and I warrant you has not lived so long among Englishmen, and by Englishmen, to quarrel with us for bearing an English mind."
    • 1909, Jack London, Martin Eden, Chapter XXIX:
      They are all stupid when they are not crafty, and very few of them are crafty. The only wise Republicans are the millionnaires and their conscious henchmen. They know which side their bread is buttered on, and they know why."
    • 1922 February, James Joyce, Ulysses, Paris: Shakespeare & Co.; Sylvia Beach, OCLC 560090630; republished London: Published for the Egoist Press, London by John Rodker, Paris, October 1922, OCLC 2297483:
      , Episode 16:
      He knows which side his bread is buttered on though in all probability he never realised what it is to be without regular meals.
    • 2008, Jerry Moriarity, Picking the Bones of Eleven Presidents and Others, →ISBN:
      The crowd, which included many children, cheered when Truman confided with a smile, “They know what side their bread is buttered on.”
    • 2003 October 9, Ken Fisher, “Pentium 4 Extremely Expensive Edition, cache boost for everyman”, in Ars Technica[1]:
      On the other hand, the decision to beef up the standard fare without raising prices is a signal that Intel knows which side of the bread is buttered.

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