That is not a reason to try and use every arcane style in your posts one-by-one to see what sticks.

Does 'what sticks' mean 'appropriate'?

I cannot find a dictionary meaning for the use in this sentence.

(And a side question: Is this question too brief?)

  • 1
    To answer your aside, in the future, a question like this one could be improved if you tell us where you got your quote from. Why is that important? Some idiomatic expressions could mean different things, depending on the source and the context (for example, "in a vacuum" can mean different things to a philosopher and a physicist), so additional context is sometimes vital to getting an accurate answer. In this case, that's not needed, but you might want to get in that habit when you ask more questions.
    – J.R.
    Commented Jun 20, 2013 at 9:10
  • @J.R. re:"in a vacuum", and a house cleaner. ;) Commented Jun 20, 2013 at 15:16

3 Answers 3


This is an allusion to a classic catchphrase from 1950s:

Throw it up against the wall and see if it sticks, or sometimes
Throw 'em up against the wall and see which ones stick.

It means "Try it (or them) out and see if it is (or which ones are) effective".

It's one of a series of metaphors popularly supposed to be the natural idiom of the 'Mad men' the bright and irreverent young advertising men of Madison Avenue in New York. Their brainstorming sessions would come up with with ideas so unconventional that senior account men worried about whether they would even be acceptable to clients and to the public, to which the answer was "there's no way of knowing without trying - throw it up against the wall and see if it sticks".

Wikipedia has a brief article on an even more famous phrase of the same tenor:

Run it up the flagpole and see who salutes.

And there were many more; comedians and satirists competed to come up with new and ever more far-fetched variations. The website TV Tropes cites this as the first example of Cyclic National Fascination.


"see what sticks" means "see what works" It comes from cooking where, supposedly, one way to test if noodles were ready was to throw one against a wall and if it stuck, the noodles were ready.

This has changed of time from "see if it is ready" to "see if it works"


If you throw multiple pieces of mud at a wall one at a time, some will stick to the wall while others won't.

If you post something multiple times one at a time, some will attract someones' attention while others won't.

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