Not Rocket Science

Also:
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist (to understand)
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist
Not brain surgery
You don’t have to be a brain surgeon

Meaning of Idiom ‘It’s Not Rocket Science’

When something is not rocket science, it’s not very complicated and easy to understand; obvious. 1Heacock, Paul. Cambridge Dictionary of American Idioms. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2010.,2Ayto, John. Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms. Oxford: Oxford U, 2010.


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Usage

Although rocket science, in this idiom, refers figuratively to a seemingly complex scientific endeavor that is beyond the comprehension of most people, the form of this idiom is always in the negative, making “it’s not rocket science” the actual idiomatic expression. Nobody ever says “it’s rocket science; you can’t understand it!” And, if they did, it would not be idiomatic, but quite literal.

Another very common form of this idiom is it doesn’t take a rocket scientist (to understand), or you don’t have to be a rocket scientist (to understand). All variations are slightly humorous and have the same meaning, referring to something that is simple and easily understood.

Brain surgery or brain surgeon often replace rocket science/scientist. Brain surgery is often seen as the most complex type of surgery which requires the most adept and skilled surgeon.

A more humorous take on this idiom, recognizing the ironic nature of the two variations is “it’s not rocket surgery.” This is often attributed to George Bush, who is supposed to have coined it by accident, but it was already used before his time as President.

Examples of Use

“Look, it’s not rocket science,” said Peter to his dad. “You just tap this icon to go to your text messages.”

“You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that this is not a good time to be selling your house.”

“Good job figuring out the problem with the lawn mower,” Peter. “Well, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see there was no gas in it.”

“Sue didn’t know whether to be insulted or relieved when her new boss described her job, saying “It’s not brain surgery, pretty much anybody can do it.”

Origin

Rocket science was considered to be something extremely complex and beyond the capabilities of the average person by around 1950, but its use in this mostly American idiom did not occur until the 1980s. According to the website  Phrase Finder, it first occurred in reference to football. The brain sugery variation is actually older, dating from the 1960s. 3Martin, Gary. “’It’s Not Rocket Science’ – the Meaning and Origin of This Phrase.” Phrasefinder, www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/its-not-rocket-science.html.

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Sources   [ + ]

1. Heacock, Paul. Cambridge Dictionary of American Idioms. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2010.
2. Ayto, John. Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms. Oxford: Oxford U, 2010.
3. Martin, Gary. “’It’s Not Rocket Science’ – the Meaning and Origin of This Phrase.” Phrasefinder, www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/its-not-rocket-science.html.