I am wondering how would you define the situation in which a teacher has written so higgledy piggledy that it seems to be very difficult to make a relationship between the board's contents.


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Or how would you define a picture that you would have a hard time to understand it.


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In both cases, I used to say: "I can't understand it........

  1. It's all over the map.
  2. It's a jumbled mess.

But, once, here in this forum in a thread I used these two idioms and whereas a native speaker who was going to answer my question could not understand either case "a" and "b", I thought maybe there is something wrong with these idioms or maybe I am mistaken about the English equivalent for the concept in my mind. That was why I decided to ask about it here.

I was wondering whether my offered idioms work here. If not, then please let me know what idiom / expression is normally used in everyday speech to define these cases?

  • 2
    "All over the map" is usually used to describe someone's thought process or (lack of) logical thinking. So someone who is all over the map might generate a messy chalkboard, but the phrase doesn't describe the chalkboard itself. Commented Nov 2, 2020 at 20:06

1 Answer 1


I believe your chosen idioms work just fine. There are many alternatives for the same thing and many of them can be interchangeably. However, many might not be known by all. Hence it is preferred to use the more common ones when speaking in everyday language. Choose ideally while speaking in public, this might help as well.

  • all over the map (North American)
  • all over the shop (British)
  • at sixes and sevens
  • all over the place
  • in a haphazard(ly) manner
  • The teacher wrote on the board in a higgledy-piggledy manner.
  • The topsy-turvy writing of our teacher is giving me a headache.
  • The teacher's shambolic writing. (British)
  • His scrappy handwritten notes didn't help the lot.
  • Such a handwriting represents muddled thinking (suppose you are trying to come up with an answer within last few minutes of examination)

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