cudgel (one's) brains(redirected from they cudgelled their brains)
cudgel (one's) brains
To try very hard to comprehend, solve, think of, or remember something. I was up all night cudgeling my brains for a way to pay off all my debts. She cudgeled her brains to remember the man's name.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
cudgel your brain (or brains)think hard about a problem.
This expression was used by Shakespeare in Hamlet: ‘Cudgel thy brains no more about it’.
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017
cudgel one's brains, to
To think hard; to make a vigorous attempt to solve or answer some question, or to remember something. The verb “to cudgel” means to beat with a cudgel (a short thick stick). Possibly the allusion here is to thrashing a schoolboy for failing to answer promptly or correctly. The word “cudgel” is hardly ever heard anymore except in this context, which dates from before 1600. Shakespeare had a clown say to another who was puzzling over a riddle, “Cudgel thy brains no more about it, for your dull ass will not mend his pace with beating” (Hamlet, 5.1). See also beat one's brains; rack one's brain.
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer