Square peg in a round hole

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Artrella

Banned
BA
Spanish-Argentina
Good afternoon Forum!

Is the phrase aforementioned an idiom or something you usually use? The context is this " Some people never learn how to cope with that way of working. Some people need direction, and they cannot cope with a facilitating culture. So they are like a square peg in a round hole"

Thanks!
 
  • garryknight

    Senior Member
    UK, English
    There's an entry in the Big Red Book of Spanish Idioms that says: Feel like a square peg in a round hole: estar/sentirse como gallina en corral ajeno.
     

    Artrella

    Banned
    BA
    Spanish-Argentina
    garryknight said:
    There's an entry in the Big Red Book of Spanish Idioms that says: Feel like a square peg in a round hole: estar/sentirse como gallina en corral ajeno.


    Bueno...Sir... acá en Argieland decimos "sentirse sapo de otro pozo"... Gracias!
     

    Fezman

    Member
    Ireland, English
    Hi, here in Ireland it is used for three different situations 1) for someone who is always trying something different,2)someone who is trying to do something never attempted before, 3) talking about something viewed as very difficult or impossible, usually said by someone frustrated by trying!!
     

    Artrella

    Banned
    BA
    Spanish-Argentina
    Fezman said:
    Hi, here in Ireland it is used for three different situations 1) for someone who is always trying something different,2)someone who is trying to do something never attempted before, 3) talking about something viewed as very difficult or impossible, usually said by someone frustrated by trying!!

    Then the 3 meanings apply to someone who tries something "different from the rest of the people"? And that is why he "does not belong to the group"?
     

    Fezman

    Member
    Ireland, English
    Artrella said:
    Then the 3 meanings apply to someone who tries something "different from the rest of the people"? And that is why he "does not belong to the group"?
    Yep, that is basically it. It would definately apply also to an outcast or a 'sore thumb' (someone who sticks out) Hope that helps!!!:)

    P.s. - coming back to your original post, it is something we would actually use!!
     

    Artrella

    Banned
    BA
    Spanish-Argentina
    Fezman said:
    Yep, that is basically it. It would definately apply also to an outcast or a 'sore thumb' (someone who sticks out) Hope that helps!!!:)
    Thx Fezman... I will take this into account when I go to Dublin next year!!! :p
     

    gaer

    Senior Member
    US-English
    There is another interesting way this is reversed:

    Our school system is essentially a square-hole, and it is not satisified until all the people who go through it end up square too.

    (Think of a grave, which is a hole in the ground that is dug in the shape of a rectangle.)

    And this also relates to being "square", meaning inflexible. :)

    Gaer
     

    mzsweeett

    Senior Member
    USA
    USA, American English
    gaer said:
    There is another interesting way this is reversed:

    Our school system is essentially a square-hole, and it is not satisified until all the people who go through it end up square too.

    (Think of a grave, which is a hole in the ground that is dug in the shape of a rectangle.)

    And this also relates to being "square", meaning inflexible. :)

    Gaer
    I definitely relate to this Gaer. Too many times children and other people in the school system do not or cannot conform to the way that is taught or done...they are therefore labeled as having a disability or inability or disruptive etc. Anything that does not go along with what they want. Really sad....really really sad. :mad:

    I like your mental visuals too...kind of gives the severity of the issue.

    Sweet T. :D :D :D
     

    te gato

    Senior Member
    Alberta--TGE (te gato English)
    Hey Art GF;

    A 'square peg in a round hole'..just does not fit...

    There was a toy put out..when my son was a baby..it was a round plastic ball..with different shapes cut into the sides..ovals, squares, triangles..yadda, yadda..and it had matching pieces to put into the shapes...
    If you ever want to watch a baby get overly frustrated...give them one of these...they will try and jam the pieces in to the cut out shapes...BUT they just... don't... fit...

    te gato;)
     

    gaer

    Senior Member
    US-English
    mzsweeett said:
    I definitely relate to this Gaer. Too many times children and other people in the school system do not or cannot conform to the way that is taught or done...they are therefore labeled as having a disability or inability or disruptive etc. Anything that does not go along with what they want. Really sad....really really sad. :mad:

    I like your mental visuals too...kind of gives the severity of the issue.

    Sweet T. :D :D :D
    It always makes me feel good to remember that Einstein was considered stupid. I don't know what shape he was, but it definitely was not square.

    And perhaps the holes for schools are really "round", since obviously schools don't like any edges. ;)

    As I've said so many times, if I had not excelled in music and gotten support there, school would have destroyed me. :(

    Gaer
     

    gaer

    Senior Member
    US-English
    te gato said:
    Hey Art GF;

    A 'square peg in a round hole'..just does not fit...

    There was a toy put out..when my son was a baby..it was a round plastic ball..with different shapes cut into the sides..ovals, squares, triangles..yadda, yadda..and it had matching pieces to put into the shapes...
    If you ever want to watch a baby get overly frustrated...give them one of these...they will try and jam the pieces in to the cut out shapes...BUT they just... don't... fit...

    te gato;)
    Plus some babies are very strong, and they get the square peg in the round hole. It just takes a "biggah hammah". :)

    Gaer
     

    gaer

    Senior Member
    US-English
    Paul Matthews said:
    It is quite often used at work to describe a person who is in the wrong job.
    Good point. Or to indicate any situation in which a person is simply not matched with what he/she is supposed to do…
     

    Antonio

    Senior Member
    Mexico/Spanish
    First off, A round peg in a square hole or A square peg in a round hole has the same meaning? because it's kind of confusing to hear this two phrases?

    This English phrase, it's like saying "To go against the tide" is the same thing? And if is the same thing, which is better to use in a day to day spoken English. Which do you hear the most?
     

    Waylink

    Senior Member
    English (British)
    I think it has to be "A square peg in a round hole".

    Technically, whether or not a peg can fit in a given hole depends on their respective sizes not just on their shapes.

    If a square peg is too large, it cannot fit in the hole regardless of whether the hole is square, round or otherwise.

    And if a square peg is small enough, it will fit into the hole regardless of whether the hole is square, round or otherwise.



    Afterthought: I suppose the "snugness" of the fit and the grip between the peg and the hole are also relevant considerations!
     
    Last edited:

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I've always understood the expression to come from Sydney Smith, viz.:

    In 1804, Sydney Smith, in his Moral Philosophy, said: “You choose to represent the various parts in life by holes upon a table. ... We shall generally find that the triangular person has got into the square hole, the oblong into the triangular hole and the round person has squeezed himself into the square hole.”
    Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham
     
    Last edited:

    Antonio

    Senior Member
    Mexico/Spanish
    First off, A round peg in a square hole or A square peg in a round hole has the same meaning? because it's kind of confusing to hear this two phrases?

    This English phrase, it's like saying "To go against the tide" is the same thing? And if is the same thing, which is better to use in a day to day spoken English. Which do you hear the most?
    Please answer that questions that I have.
     

    Nunty

    Senior Member
    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    Moderator Note:
    Please do not ask a new question in an existing thread. To ask about another expression, first do a search for existing threads about the new question. If you do not find your answer in one of them, please feel free to post in an old thread. If there are no old threads about your question, you are more than welcome to open a new thread.

    Please have a look at the general WordReference guidelines.

    Thank you.
     

    Murphy

    Senior Member
    English, UK
    Hi Antonio,
    I don't think these two expressions have exactly the same meaning. To be a square peg in a round hole simply means to be out of place, not to fit with your environment, while to go against the tide means to do things differently from other people deliberately; it's not that you don't fit, but that you don't want to fit.
    :)
     

    Waylink

    Senior Member
    English (British)
    the square peg in a round hole is synonym of misfit?
    They are similar in some ways but I think that misfit is stronger and nearly always has negative connotations. They are not synonymous.

    Square peg in a round hole just means that the person is unsuited to his/her environment or mismatched with other people around him/her.
    eg

    John was an independent and creative sort of student. When he had to work on a factory production line assembling widgets, he was a bit of a square peg in a round hole.

    Peter was a social misfit, given to throwing stones at other people's windows, vandalizing car paintwork and kicking cats.
     
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