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From Lexico(Oxford)

not playing with a full deck (North American informal): Mentally deficient.

From the Free Dictionary by Farlex

  1. Not mentally sound; crazy or mentally deranged. A: "Look at that guy talking to himself on the corner." B: "I reckon he's not playing with a full deck."
  2. Not very bright or intelligent; dimwitted. Jim's a nice guy, but with some of the foolish things he does, I wonder if he's not playing with a full deck.

I understand the meanings talked about above.

However, an ELU post says

Both you and your friend are incorrect; sorry. But that's not your fault; you're not playing with a full deck, if you take your definitions of "part of speech" from English books.

Does it convey the same meaning defined in dictionaries? If yes, is it some kind of being impolite, calling asker not very bright?

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I would not necessarily consider the answer to be rude with respect to the phrase itself.

First of all, consider the literal interpretation of the phrase. If I'm playing poker, and I don't have a full deck, it means that I actually don't have a full deck. It doesn't mean that I'm crazy, but that I'm missing one of more cards.

Here's the response again, with my own emphasis:

Both you and your friend are incorrect; sorry. But that's not your fault; you're not playing with a full deck, if you take your definitions of "part of speech" from English books.

I take the emphasis to mean that it's not their fault either intentionally or due to the nature of them being stupid.

Just as plumber might not have all the tools required for a particular job, I interpret the passage as saying that the person and his friend don't have all the linguistic tools necessary to understand a particular meaning.

In short, not playing with a full deck is still being used metaphorically, but not metaphorically in the way that it's commonly used.


On the other hand, even if the expression isn't being used in the normal stupid sense, the answer itself could still be interpreted as somewhat conceited. It's not clear, because it's missing a tone of voice. It's possible to read it as a simple statement of fact—or to read it as a put-down.

Since it can be interpreted in an insulting fashion, even if that wasn't the intention, I think it should be edited to remove the questionable phrasing.


PS: I actually flagged the answer in question for moderator attention (calling out the second sentence), as I wasn't sure exactly how to edit it in a way that would be appropriate for everybody involved.

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    "being used metaphorically, but not metaphorically in the way that it's commonly used" is exactly correct. I would add that the phrase should not be used by one who is unfamiliar with the common (derogatory) western metaphoric meaning; to avoid exactly this type of misinterpretation. – Jimmy Fix-it Jun 28 '20 at 15:09
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Yes, it is a bit rude. I think the poster is saying that "You don't have all the knowledge of grammar and books on linguistics that I have". So I don't think that they are being intentionally rude. But they do insult the questioner.

(I've now submitted an edit to that answer to remove the insult)

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