learn the ropes
Of nautical origin. The phrase "he knows the ropes" written on a seaman's discharge meant that he was inexperienced and only familiar with a ship's principal ropes.
1981, Snelling, Charles, Nomenclature of Ships, Naval Sea Systems Command:
- To learn the basics or master introductory knowledge.
- Work slowly and cautiously until you have learned the ropes.
- To learn some skill requiring specialist knowledge.
- And, of course, on such momentous occasions as these, Manning was in his element. None knew those difficult ropes better than he; none used them with a more serviceable and yet discreet alacrity. In every juncture he had the right word, or the right silence; his influence ramified in all directions, from the Pope's audience chamber to the English Cabinet.
- (Lytton Strachey, Eminent Victorians, 1918ː Folio Society edition, 1979, pp 98-99)
- know the ropes
- show one the ropes
- teach one the ropes