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I have seen (in an online conversation) the idiom think nothing of <something> for the first time. (The context was more-or-less something like this: "I am surprised that intelligent people who think nothing of calculating complicated integrals, cannot master basics of English grammar." This is just a paraphrase, you can replace integrals with any ability which is considered complicated and English grammar with anything considered relatively easy.)

I have seen the phrase think nothing of it in Wiktionary, when it is used as form of saying thank you. But this seems to be a different idiom.

When I searched for "who think nothing of", most occurrences I see could be understood as "who do not mind doing something". Although the first pages of search results are with negative connotations.

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Leonhard Euler is a good example of someone who can really think nothing of calculating complicated integrals. One well-known quote about him (by François Arago) is He calculated without any apparent effort, just as men breathe, as eagles sustain themselves in the air. –  Damkerng T. Jan 9 at 12:32
In my opinion, your sentence is better without a comma: "I am surprised that intelligent people who think nothing of calculating complicated integrals cannot master [the] basics of English grammar." –  snailboat Jan 9 at 15:14

4 Answers 4

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Oxford explains it:

Think nothing of - Consider (an activity others regard as unusual, wrong, or difficult) as straightforward or normal.

In other words, when you do something unusual without thinking of others, you do it easily. The FreeDictionary explains it.

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See also: Unconscious competence –  TecBrat Apr 10 at 15:27

To "think nothing of X" is to consider X to be normal or acceptable, when we might reasonably consider or when most people would think that X is very difficult or ethically unacceptable.

"John thinks nothing of calculating integrals in his head." Most people think this task is very hard, but John does it with little apparent effort.

"John thinks nothing of driving 60 miles to work every day." Most people would consider this too much trouble, but John doesn't care.

"John thinks nothing of killing anyone who stands in his way." Most people believe this is morally wrong, but John doesn't care.

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In your sentence, "I am surprised that intelligent people who think nothing of calculating complicated integrals, cannot master basics of English grammar," it essentially means, "People who find it trivially easy to calculate..." which fits with your interpretation as "do not mind doing" the calculations.

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There are many things I find easy to do but which I do mind doing. I may think nothing of changing a baby's diaper, but that does not imply I do not mind doing it... –  oerkelens Jan 9 at 12:28
Trivially easy, as in free from potential complications or negative consequences? Changing a baby's diaper fits neither category. Regardless, I said "essentially," which admits exceptions, especially outside the contextualized instance I was commenting on. Nevertheless, have you got a broader class of exceptions in mind (that might fit better than your first counterexample)? –  Nick Stauner Jan 9 at 12:35
I fail to see the relevance of potential complications and negative consequences as essential to something being trivially easy (once you stand on a tall bridge, if there is no protection, stepping off it is trivially easy but not without consequence). Of course, if you do define anything that one may not like per definition as not trivially easy, there are no counterexamples. But I can say I am skilled at chopping onions, I think nothing of chopping them very finely. I can still object to chop a whole bunch of them. They make me cry, but that does not make chopping them less trivially easy. –  oerkelens Jan 9 at 12:42
This is starting to look like an issue for English Language & Usage...At least our disagreement has been noted on the fine details of the implied meaning of "easy" as a substitute for the OP's phrase of interest outside the OP's context of interest... –  Nick Stauner Jan 9 at 12:46
Now on that I can only agree :). Maybe we should take it over there :) –  oerkelens Jan 9 at 12:48

Just for completeness, I'll add that the phrase "think nothing of..." can also be used in the following way:

Think nothing of it.

This sentence can mean either "you're welcome" or "don't worry about it" depending on context. For example:

Person A: Thank you so much for helping out with the party last weekend!
Person B: Think nothing of it!

Person A: I'm sorry for dropping that book on your foot! Person B: Think nothing of it.

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