Origins of “no shit, Sherlock!”


We’ve all responded sarcastically by saying “no shit, Sherlock”, haven’t we? This expression refers, of course, to the famous 19th century detective Sherlock Holmes in the eponymous books by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Holmes is known for being very smart and observant, leaping to conclusions quickly that might seem impossible at first, but when he explains his thinking it all becomes clear. On top of that, he is generally shown as being arrogant and sometimes annoyed or even exhausted when he is asked to explain himself.

This phrase has been around for a while – since the 1950’s it’s estimated. One of the first recorded uses in popular culture is in the movie Little Shop of Horrors from 1986, as seen here:

“No shit, Sherlock” is an expression of amazement followed by comparing the person to the detective Sherlock Holmes, as if they’ve just made a great deduction. This expression is however used sarcastically to point out that they have just stated the obvious. It’s an interjection that’s vulgar, colloquial, sarcastic and somewhat derogatory. I like how Wikipedia describes it: “a riposte to someone who has just said something obvious.”

Similar expressions are:

  • Captain Obvious
  • Duh
  • Is the Pope a Catholic?
  • No shit
  • What was your first clue?

Well, that’s that. Now you know something you might not have known before. You’re welcome! I’ll be posting some of these in the future as well. I love language, I am a linguist by training, and I adore these new words and expressions from books and culture! Do you know any interesting ones? Let me know!

Happy reading,

Loes M.


  1. Stephen King uses the phrase in Beachworld. A short story written and published in Skelton Crew a year before Little Shop of Horrors.

  2. David Bowie was recorded saying “no shit Sherlock “ in an interview about his “Low” album 10 years before little shop of horrors.

    1. You wanted another colloquialism, so here goes. My mother used to say, when she was particularly annoyed with someone, “They hang pictures and they let you walk around.”

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