John Oliver said to Dustin Hoffman in a recorded conversation, available in part on Youtube:

I read today her diary and she had this one line that’s been wrapped around my head.

First I thought he was saying he tried to wrap his head around that line, but that is not what he said. He seemingly said "that's been wrapped/wrapping around my head." I can't be sure if he used the word wrapped or wrapping, although the word given in the transcript is wrapped. Is this expression idiomatic? I can't find any related definition. What does it mean?


The transcripts provided by CBS and The Washington Post both have wrapped in them. However, as @Canadian Yankee points out, the actual phrase said is probably rattling around my head. I already have my question answered, and I'm happy about it and would be for closing this question. But I think the question did lead to answers and discussions helpful for other people. I, for one, don't think this is the only instance that these two phrases are misheard or mixed up. Not to mention the fact that this mistranscription of Oliver's speech is actually really widespread.

  • Be aware that YouTube links that are officially released by television broadcasters are often geographically limited. When I click on the link you provided, what I get is a black screen that says, "The uploader has not made this video available in your country." ELL has an international readership. Apr 12, 2018 at 14:16
  • @CanadianYankee Thanks for the tip! I didn't think of country limitations. Would you try this link and let me know if it works in Canada?
    – Eddie Kal
    Apr 12, 2018 at 14:35
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    Yes - that link works. It also seems that you misheard John Oliver. What I hear in that video is this: "..she had this one line that's been rattling around my head." This is a very common idiom - I'll edit my answer to reflect this. Apr 12, 2018 at 14:49
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it's based on a mistranscription (wrapped around for rattling around). Apr 12, 2018 at 15:39
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    Yes, it is rattling, not wrapping. I don't think we should remove this necessarily. it's only hard to hear because he said it so fast. I didn't hear it the first time either.
    – Lambie
    Apr 12, 2018 at 16:09

1 Answer 1


The original poster seems to have misheard the speaker (the audio is pretty poor). What I hear when listening to the video is this:

I read today her diary and she had this one line that's been rattling around my head.

It is common to say that an idea is rattling around [in] one's head to mean that it's been continuously on one's mind.

More broadly, to rattle around is an informal expression meaning to move around or live in a large, empty space. The metaphor is of a baby's rattle that consists of a hollow sphere with a few hard pebbles inside that fly about randomly, making noise, whenever someone shakes the rattle. A typical usage:

I thought I'd be able to get a lot of work done with the kids away at summer camp, but I've mostly been rattling around the house without accomplishing anything.

When used metaphorically about an idea in your head, it is somewhat self-deprecating (you're implying that your head is mostly empty after all!). You're saying that you don't have a lot of concrete or well-thought-out ideas in this area, but this one idea is "rattling around your head" in the otherwise unoccupied "space."

  • That's right. I misread it the first time I listened to it.
    – Lambie
    Apr 12, 2018 at 16:10

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