A little rough around the edges [a person]

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Carlos Palomera, Oct 16, 2006.

  1. Carlos Palomera Member

    Guadalajara, Mexico
    Spanish Mexico
    Hello there,

    What would the expression "You looked rough around the edges" mean?

    I understand it as you "did not look at all well", am I right?

    Thanks a lot

  2. mgarizona

    mgarizona Senior Member

    Phoenix, AZ
    US - American English
    The basic meaning is 'unpolished' in either literal or figurative senses. Context would help.
  3. Carlos Palomera Member

    Guadalajara, Mexico
    Spanish Mexico
    Thanks mgarizona!
    The message I received was this:

    "well...you didn't look all that well last week...little rough around
    the edges..."

  4. dv8 New Member

    polish, poland
    Not exactly "at all well". More like "a little bad".
  5. mgarizona

    mgarizona Senior Member

    Phoenix, AZ
    US - American English
    It's an odd use of the phrase. Perhaps they meant 'unkempt' if you were looking sloppy and are normally well put-together. Or perhaps they meant something like "the worse for wear," if you had been through a grueling period since they'd seen you last.
  6. . 1 Banned

    Ferntree Gully
    Australian Australia
    In Australia the use is to indicate that a person looks slightly ill or unkempt.

  7. parolearruffate Senior Member

    Hi everybody!
    It is the description of a person. "He's a serious chap. A little rough around the edges".
    It's a phrase, isn't it? What does it mean?
    thank you
  8. Dimcl Senior Member

    British Columbia, Canada
    Canadian English
    It means that he's not entirely "polished" or sophisticated. A nice guy but probably doesn't know which fork to use at a fancy dinner.
  9. parolearruffate Senior Member

    Thank you :)
    A rather rough guy?
  10. bibliolept

    bibliolept Senior Member

    Northern California
    AE, Español
    "Rough guy" would mean, possibly, a tough man or one who is not too gentle.

    There's another thread on "rough around the edges":

    <<Thanks for the link - threads now merged>>
  11. parolearruffate Senior Member

    Thank you. So could it mean he has rough behaviour? That his behaviour is not entirely proper?
  12. bibliolept

    bibliolept Senior Member

    Northern California
    AE, Español
    If he is "serious" as well as "rough around the edges," it might mean that he doesn't care for social niceties. He may be focused on other things and may behave gruffly, impolitely, or impolitically.
  13. tepatria Senior Member

    Onondaga, Ontario
    Canadian English
    Yes, that is what it means. I think the phrase comes from making pottery. If you are a good potter, everything is perfect. If you are just learning you could make a very nice pot that has some rough pieces or be rough around the finishing edge. Not perfect, but quite acceptable.
  14. L'Homme Inconnu

    L'Homme Inconnu Senior Member

    Back o' Beyond
    English English
    It could do, yes. I think it can also mean that something is not finished perfectly. For example:
    "I've put together this cabinet; it's a little rough around the edges, though."

    Here it means that it has been roughly assembled, and is not a perfect job or finished to a high standard.
  15. Saluton Banned

    Moscow, Russia
    Is it a colloquial expression?
  16. Hermione Golightly

    Hermione Golightly Senior Member

    British English
    Yes it is informal and colloquial.
    If you are talking to someone you don't know well or maybe to your boss or teacher for example you would not use rough around the edges in the sense of looking ill. Using it to comment on their general appearance would of course be out of the question since you wouldn't not be commenting on the appearance in any sort of language.
    When someone says they 'feel rough' they mean they feel unwell; if they say they feel rough around the edges they might mean unwell or they might mean they have had a rough time, some bad experience maybe, and feel upset.

    Friend: Gosh, you look a bit rough round the edges! Are you OK?
    HG: Yes I'm fine really, just exhausted. I had a really bad night then I overslept and nearly missed the train. Where's the coffee?

  17. mgarizona

    mgarizona Senior Member

    Phoenix, AZ
    US - American English
    Seems as though "rough round the edges," in the sense 'unwell,' is more of a Britishism as it seems more familiar to British responders. (Makes me think of someone looking "green about the gills.")

    On the other hand in the "serious guy" example I side with Bibliolept in posting 12. While that person might seem to lack couth, his heart would still seem to be in the right place.
  18. kalamazoo Senior Member

    US, English
    In AE,I think "rough around the edges" doesn't usually mean looking ill. It doesn't refer to someone who is a rough person, but to someone who is not necessarily a very refined person or who is sometimes awkward in social settings or occasionally doesn't say quite the right thing or something like that.
  19. JamesM

    JamesM Senior Member

    I've heard "you look a little rough around the edges" to mean unwell or even suffering from a hangover. "You're a little rough around the edges" would have the "unrefined" meaning for me but "You look..." changes the meaning for me.
  20. kalamazoo Senior Member

    US, English
    I agree. Actually the original question was very slightly ambiguous in this regard. Saying you look a little rough around the edges would imply you don't quite look like your usual self.
  21. Tansey69 New Member

    American English
    I don't think being 'rough around the edges' has anything do with social awkwardness, because social awkwardness implies that a person gets nervous and/or isn't sure how to act in social situations.

    A better description would be a person who isn't interested in conforming or going through the motions in social situations. Someone who couldn't care less what others think, which may by default offend people, but that doesn't necessarily have anything to do with social awkwardness.
  22. Hain Nodi New Member

    So is it a good thing or not when someone described me as "rough around the edges, but have some potential."?
  23. kalamazoo Senior Member

    US, English
    In general, it describes someone who is not refined and may not act quite correctly. There could be a lot of reasons for this - maybe it has to do with their background or their outlook or their personality. Social awkwardness is just one possibility - they aren't sure how to act or don't know how to act. Or they may not want to conform. Or they have been brought up differently.
  24. kalamazoo Senior Member

    US, English
    It's somewhat positive because you have potential, but a little negative, because it indicates they think you need some more experience or training somehow. It depends on the context.

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