can't make head or tail of

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can't make head or tail of

Also can't make heads or tails of. Fail to understand, be quite confused about, as in I can't make head or tail of these directions. A version of this term dates back to Roman times, when Cicero wrote Ne caput nec pedes ("neither head nor feet") to describe confusion. In the current idiom the precise allusion is unclear: head and tail may mean top and bottom, beginning and end, or the two sides of a coin. [Second half of 1600s]
See also: head, make, of, tail
References in classic literature ?
That she should be startled at me instead of at the other man, was too many for me; I couldn't make head or tail of it .
Amid the turmoil and tumult of battle, there may be seeming disorder and yet no real disorder at all; amid confusion and chaos, your array may be without head or tail, yet it will be proof against defeat.
I can hardly make head or tail of it as a story, but it's a strange, striking thing.
I can't make head or tail of anything yet, but to my mind he was always the suspect.
I knew you were here somewhere, but I couldn't make head or tail of you through the smoke.
I'm surprised that you can make head or tail of me at all," said I.
We tried to map out excursions for the morrow; we puzzled over French "guides to Paris"; we talked disjointedly in a vain endeavor to make head or tail of the wild chaos of the day's sights and experiences; we subsided to indolent smoking; we gaped and yawned and stretched--then feebly wondered if we were really and truly in renowned Paris, and drifted drowsily away into that vast mysterious void which men call sleep.
It was quite clear that she could not make head or tail of my announcement.
All felt that something had happened, something had gone very far wrong indeed, but no one could make head or tail of the matter.
To know the truth--to accept without bitterness"-- those, perhaps, were the most articulate of her utterances, for no one could have made head or tail of the queer gibberish murmured in front of the statue of Francis, Duke of Bedford, save that the name of Ralph occurred frequently in very strange connections, as if, having spoken it, she wished, superstitiously, to cancel it by adding some other word that robbed the sentence with his name in it of any meaning.
I'm sure I'll never be able to make head or tail of it.
I tried to converse with them, but not one of them could understand Pan-American, nor could I make head or tail of their jargon.
Billy shook his head and confessed his inability to make head or tail of the troubles that were looming on the labor horizon.
As far as I am concerned, you may all go to hell, but from what I see, it's clear to me that I can't make head or tail of it; please don't think I've come to ask you questions.
The challenge: Guess whether the concealed coin is a head or tail.