negative particle, mid-13c., unstressed variant of noht, naht "in no way" (see naught). As an interjection to negate what was said before or reveal it as sarcasm, it is first attested 1900; popularized 1989 by "Wayne's World" sketches on "Saturday Night Live" TV show. To not know X from Y (one's ass from one's elbow, shit from Shinola, etc.) was a construction attested c. 1930 in modern use; but compare Middle English not know an A from a windmill (c. 1400). Double negative construction not un- was derided by Orwell, but is persistent and ancient in English, popular with Milton and the Anglo-Saxon poets.
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