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

can’t make head or/nor ˈtail of something

(informal) not be able to understand something at all: I can’t make head or tail of this picture — is it upside down?
See also: head, make, nor, of, something, tail
References in periodicals archive ?
The challenge: Guess whether the concealed coin is a head or tail.
22) Still, such provocative pictorial sport was perhaps not altogether a good thing; according to Horace, "A book will have very much the same effect as these pictures [of beastly hybrids] if, like a sick man's dreams, the author's idle fancies assume such a shape that it is impossible to make [literally] head or tail of what he is driving at.