English base on the nose

Dictionary entry: on the nose


On the nose can mean exact or precise, but it carries a second completely different meaning as well. On the nose can mean exact and it can also mean that something is lacking nuance, is missing the point, or is being overly literal. Based on how I've seen it used, people often distinguish these by saying "right on the nose" to mean exact or precise, and saying "on the nose" to carry to other meaning. I'm not sure if this is different in any other English speaking countries, but this is at least true in Eastern America.
  • Can confirm.

    You can qualify "on the nose" with other adjectives. "A little on the nose" is an understatement, " and "a little too on the nose" is also a way to draw attention to the fact the work is not nuanced, that its criticism is obvious and unsubtle, etc. But "right on the nose" means something different.
    Thanks! :)

    I'll forward your comment to the English team for an addition of this Sense.

    Thanks for your messages. I'm not familiar with this sense, but is it something like this? (from the full OED, which says this sense is Australian):


    Obviously, I'm thinking of the 'offensive, distasteful' bit rather than the literal 'smelly'. So, is your sense rather like the usage in the last two examples (1974 and 1999) shown above?
    Not offensive per se, though it could be. E.g. Julius Caesar with men in business suits is a little too on the nose as a commentary about Donald Trump. That is, we know that you don’t like Trump; you don’t have to rub it in, and your interpretation adds nothing interesting or nuanced.

    It’s a phrase that I use about politicians too; they’re too on-the-nose when they say or do things unironically that their critics say they do, the things that the supporters of said politicians would claim are polemical inventions…
    Thanks for the extra info. I've added a sense of 'lacking subtlety, nuance'. I hope that sounds about right. It will be included in future translation projects and, once translated into the various languages, will appear in the dictionaries the next time they are updated.